What are “Grandparents’ Rights”?

Extremely limited under federal and Texas law, as recently confirmed in the Dallas Court of Appeals decision In The Interest of K.R.P.C., A Child.

In 2000, the United States Supreme Court spoke on this issue in Troxel v. Granville, finding that the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution protected the fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children. Accordingly, statutes can permit a court to order visitation by a grandparent against a parent’s wishes only in the most limited of circumstances.

In Texas, those circumstances are set out in the Texas Family Code. A grandparent seeking court-ordered access must include an affidavit with his request setting forth facts alleging that denial of the access to the grandchild would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional well-being. The court must deny the relief and dismiss the suit unless the court determines that the facts in the affidavit would support the requested relief. Assuming that the grandparent can get past that hurdle and actually have a hearing on his request, there are additional requirements to be met before the court can order the grandparent access.

In the Troxel case, the court noted that a state cannot infringe on a parent’s right to make child rearing decisions simply because a state judge believes that a “better” decision could be made.

The Dallas Court of Appeals following the Troxel ruling and the requirements of the Texas Family Code affirmed the trial court’s judgment dismissing the grandfather’s request for access. The court also noted that grandfather, who represented himself, should be held to the same standard as a licensed attorney in regard to complying with the applicable laws and rules of procedure. To hold otherwise, would give an unfair advantage to parties who choose to represent themselves.