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How crossing state lines can affect grandchild visitation

On Behalf of | Jun 16, 2016 | Child Custody

Families are frequently spread out across the country. Your children may still reside within Texas but across the state in Austin or San Antonio. Other kids may have moved to California or New England. This can make spending time with grandchildren difficult in the best of circumstances.

What happens if a child goes through a contentious divorce or passes away? When your relationship with a son-in-law or daughter-in-law has always been strained, you may be denied access to the grandkids.

this blog, we discuss Texas grandparent visitation law and the added complexities when grandkids live in another state.

Texas grandparent visitation

The state recognizes the important role that grandparents play in the lives of their grandchildren. Getting along with a parent is not a prerequisite to being able to spend time with your grandchildren.

Grandparents can ask a Texas court to grant custody or visitation privileges.

When can you file?

A judge may grant visitation in the following circumstances:

  • Divorce of the parents
  • Incarceration, incompetency or death of one or both or the parents

After having a grandchild live with you for six months or more you also have the right to ask for custody or visitation. Even if accusations of abuse or neglect have been filed or the parent-child relationship has been terminated, you may still be able to obtain visitation rights.

No absolute right

The courts paramount consideration is the child’s best interest. This means that you do not have the absolute right to visitation. When a grandchild has been adopted by someone other than a step-parent, the right to visits generally ceases.

Difficulties in exercising visitation rights across state lines

A court order may be broad stating that you have the right to three weeks during the summer. On the other hand, it may provide more detail stating the portion of the Christmas holiday you get to spend with grandkids.

In Florida, a case winding its way through the state courts provides a cautionary tale for what can happen. Case law in Florida places a parent’s visitation rights ahead of a grandparent’s rights.

A Colorado court order awarded grandparents living in Colorado three weeks a year with the children of their deceased son. After moving to Central Florida, the children’s mother refused to comply with the order.

The Florida Supreme Court is considering whether Florida courts must enforce the Colorado Court order. Attorneys for the grandparents argue that failing to enforce the Colorado order would turn Florida into a haven for fleeing parents. It could also create more uncertainty for grandparents across the country.

This case demonstrates how difficult it can become to exercise visitation rights even when an order is in place. Working with an experienced family law attorney at Vernier & Associates, PLLC can ease the process. As skilled negotiators, our attorneys seek win-win solutions that preserve family relationships.


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