Can grandparent visitation be legally awarded over the objection of a parent in Texas? Yes. Texas law does permit a biological or adoptive grandparent to seek direct visitation to grandchildren. In practice, however, this is a very difficult case to make.
WHAT IS REQUIRED FOR A TEXAS GRANDPARENT TO BE AWARDED VISITATION?
For starters, the grandparent must offer proof that a denial of the requested visitation would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development. It is important to note how this standard deviates from normal family law practice. Many legal decisions about children are made using a “best interests” standard (i.e., what is in the best interests of the child). However, for a grandparent to be awarded visitation it is not enough to show they are a “good” grandparent or even that the requested visitation is in the best interests of the children. The grandparent must instead prove that the denial of visitation would be directly and significantly harmful to the children. If the grandparent cannot meet this initial threshold, the judge must immediately dismiss the suit.
Significant impairment isn’t the only hurdle to overcome. The parent of the child (to whom the grandparent is related) must fall into one of four categories: (1) has been incarcerated for at least three months, (2) has been found incompetent by a court, (3) has died, or (4) does not have actual or court-ordered possession of the child. At least one biological or adoptive parent of the child must still have their parental rights (i.e., rights have not been terminated). Finally, once both biological parents have either died, had their rights terminated, or have executed certain affidavits, no grandparent visitation can be awarded.
Fit parents are legally presumed to act in their children’s best interests and the court is hesitant to interfere, so extreme care must be taken to ensure all applicable grounds can be proven. Establishing the evidence necessary to make the case for grandparent visitation in Texas is a complicated question, beyond the scope of this post. That analysis is best applied to the actual facts and circumstances of your particular case.