By: Leslie Barrows
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Grandparent Custody in Texas: Conservatorship, Guardianship, and Estate Planning
Because Grandparents Are Important to Children’s Lives, Grandparent Custody in Texas is a Frequently Discussed Topic
When children look at their parents, they appreciate that even mom and dad had their own parents. Grandparents help their grandchildren put things into perspective. Grandparents are fascinating to young kids who hear stories from the past and what it was like before modern conveniences and technology. Grandparents also talk to their grandchildren about what life was like when their parents were growing up as children. We hope our children learn the importance of history and culture from grandparents.
You may enjoy this article from Today, The special role of grandparents.
As parents, we often think about whether our own mothers and fathers would step in and take care of our kids if something happened. But what happens when parents are not together? And what happens when one of the parents is in trouble or going through something that prevents them from being there for their kids.
It is natural to look to grandparents and ask if grandparent custody in Texas, or visitation, or guardianship is something to consider. What matters is whether everyone is on the same page when it comes to appointing a grandparent to care for a child, temporarily or permanently. Assuming both biological parents are joint conservators, their parental rights trump those of a grandparent. The issues involved are complex and can require an experienced lawyer who knows divorce, family law and estate and guardianship planning.
Grandparent Custody in Texas is a Complex Matter
Judges, divorce lawyers, mental health professionals, and parents can agree that grandparents are important to grandchildren. While it may seem normal for grandparents to be engaged and involved in caring for and helping raise their grandchildren when it comes to legal rights they often fall short. The parents of a child have superior rights to their children and Texas courts set a high bar for grandparents to establish their standing to bring and win cases seeking custody and visitation with grandchildren.
In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Troxel v. Granville, primarily held that “There is a fundamental right under the Fourteenth Amendment for a parent to oversee the care, custody, and control of a child.” In a nutshell, grandparents’ legal rights are limited, even though courts find that relationships with grandparents are in the best interests of grandchildren.
What about emergencies? Can’t parents use estate planning documents to appoint someone such as a grandparent to care for their children in their absence?
See the Texas Attorney General’s website page about grandparents and senior rights.
Planning for Unforeseeable Grandparent Custody Issues
What would you do if your daughter went missing, in which her husband was a suspect, and your granddaughter had nobody lined up to take care of her? This is what recently happened in San Antonio. The grandparents of the little girl are seeking custody of their granddaughter as her mother, missing since the first of March, is presumed dead.
Because the father is facing an evidence tampering case tied to the disappearance of his wife, he is prohibited from contact with the little girl, a condition of bond.
Among what is alleged is that the only constant in the little girl’s life is her grandmother. However, the grandmother has an uphill battle in any Texas court where grandparent custody and visitation are both possible, but not easily obtained when there is another parent with superior legal rights.
Unexpected Tragedies are Beyond our Control
We buy insurance to cover the unexpected. We get wills and trusts written to serve our directive wishes in our absence. When we go under for surgery we appoint someone we trust to make our medical decisions. Often it is right before a vacation that parents call their lawyer and make sure to update their will and estate planning documents in case anything happens to them.
But what about the unexpected tragedies that don’t occur overseas, the ones that take place right at home? Would we ever expect to be abducted and likely murdered by the other parent? Likely nobody ever said they would become a statistic or a line in a news story about grandparents seeking conservatorship because dad is out of the picture or is otherwise a suspect.
Family Lawyers with Estate Planning Solutions Including Guardianship
Divorce lawyers commonly assist their clients with wills and estate planning after a divorce, to protect the client and their family in the future. When a client comes to meet with an estate planning lawyer, the question of kids comes up. Most of us assume our parents could step in for us on a temporary basis. When it’s a permanent custody or visitation discussion, it can become more complicated.
A guardian, who can be a grandparent, can be appointed to care for your children and receive funds from your estate for their care. In most wills, the guardian is appointed assuming the simultaneous death of both parents. In the case in San Antonio, the whereabouts and life of the mother are unknown and the father is known but barred from contact with the child.
While lawyers can write wills and estate plans to apply to a variety of scenarios, the facts determine what happens. Well-prepared wills and estate planning documents record the maker’s intentions and what hey would want to happen in their absence.
Call the Barrows Firm in Southlake for More Information about Grandparent Custody in Texas
Leslie Barrows and her team of attorneys and paralegals focus on divorce, family law and the guardianship and estate planning issues. When parents divorce and there are custody issues and something happens to one or both parents, we all need to be ready to deal with that situation. Planning ahead when everyone is happy and healthy makes it much easier for families. Call us at The Barrows Frim in Southlake at (817) 481-1583 if you need help and legal advice about grandparent custody in Texas.