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Laura Dale & Associates, P.C.

History of grandparent rights reflects real 'modern family'

We have written before about the fact that, contrary to what might be convention, grandparents can't assume that their right to access to their grandchildren is a given. This is true in Texas and every other state of the union. This may come as a surprise, especially to those in the baby boom generation or the older one -- what has come to be called the greatest generation.

The confusion is easy to understand. Individuals in older generations grew up in a time when the concept of the nuclear family was much the norm. Today, upholding grandparent rights can require taking matters to the court, where the help of a skilled family law attorney can be invaluable.

How we got to this point is a long and winding road. Many experts trace it back to the 1960s. There can be no denying that huge social changes were ignited in that era. The first laws regarding grandparent visitation started to be passed by states in that decade. Within 30 years, all the states had laws related to the issue on the books.

In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court brought an added color to the issue by ruling that, in the end, parents have great latitude in deciding whether children and grandparents can see each other. It comes down to what is in the best interest of the child and the court ruled that the benefit of the doubt in that regard goes to the parents. That puts a great deal of pressure on grandparents who feel stymied in fostering family relationships with their grandchildren to make their case.

In Texas, there are two hurdles to clear. First, just to approach the court, it has to be shown that the parents of the children are unfit for some reason. If a hearing is granted, the grandparents then have to make clear that the relationship between parents and children is such that granting access or visitation to the grandparents is in the children's best interest. Seeking full custody of grandchildren requires meeting a whole other set of standards.

What's clear from this brief outline is that the legal history of grandparents' rights is far from complete.

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