When can grandparents sue for custody?

In order to sue to become the conservator of a child, a person must have standing.  In Texas, there are several ways that a grandparent can have standing to sue for conservatorship.  First, if the grandparent has had “actual care, control and possession” of the child for at least six months before filing the suit, he or she has standing.  Courts disagree on what exactly constitutes actual care or actual control.  If a parent has voluntarily given the child to the grandparent, this requirement is clearly satisfied.  The possession must not have been in violation of a court order.  The six-month period must end no more than 90 days before suit is filed, but the six months do not need to be continuous.

A grandparent (or any relative within a third degree of consanguinity) also has standing if the child’s parents are deceased.

A grandparent has standing if he or she can prove that the child’s present circumstances will significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development.  Grandparents often use this provision to obtain standing to file suit when the parents are abusive or have drug or alcohol issues.

Finally, grandparents have standing to file suit if the child’s parents have consented to the suit.  This allows for parents to voluntarily give the grandparents custody when they are unable or unwilling to care for the child.  In this situation, an order appointing the grandparents as conservators can be obtained quite quickly.

Grandparents' Rights pic

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