Posted by Ramos Law Group, PLLC | Child Custody
There are many scenarios in which parents may not be in an intact relationship, but the circumstances will always trigger questions about the child’s care, support, and well-being. Whether through a Texas divorce case, paternity proceedings, or some other family law matter, the parties must address conservatorship. Familiarly known as custody, this concept covers decision-making regarding the child’s health, education, and welfare. Parents also have the right to access, which you may know as visitation or parenting time.
This description of parental rights and responsibilities are rather clear, but you could be entering somewhat murky territory if you are not a biological parent. Texas law applies differently because the parent-child relationship is considered paramount, and it should not be disrupted by further distant relatives or unrelated individuals. Still, there are legal options that you should discuss with a Houston child visitation lawyer who can provide custom-tailored advice on your unique situation. Some general information about visitation may also help answer the question: Do you have to be a biological parent in order to be granted parenting time?
Rights Of Non-Biological Parents Under Texas Visitation Law
The default rule regarding parenting time for biological parents is that the possessory parent has the right to visitation, typically according to the Texas Standard Possession Order. The exception would be the presence of violence, abuse, or related factors. When an adult other than a biological parent wants parenting time, the issue comes down to the person’s relationship and role in the child’s life.
Adoptive Parents: When you adopt a child, you have all the same rights and responsibilities as a biological parent. Even the child’s biological parent cannot disrupt or interfere with your parental rights, including access. This premise assumes you went through the proper adoption process and the biological parent’s rights were terminated.
Grandparents: While they do not enjoy the same rights as biological parents, a grandparent can file a petition in court to request visitation. However, as with any issue involving the child, the judge will assess your petition in the context of the child’s best interests. In addition, Texas law allows grandparent visitation if:
- A denial of grandparent access would harm the child’s physical and emotional well-being;
- At least one biological or adoptive parent still maintains parental rights;
- The biological or adoptive parent is incarcerated, was adjudicated incompetent, passed away, OR does not have parenting time rights.
Siblings: When an adult brother or sister wants parenting time with the child, it is also necessary to go to court to get an order granting access. You can file a petition in any action currently pending regarding custody and/or visitation, or you may initiate a new suit for the sole purpose of requesting parenting time. Again, the standard the judge will apply is whether allowing sibling access is in the child’s best interests and whether the sibling has the legal foundation to request visitation.
Your Rights and Responsibilities For Parenting Time
If the court grants the request of visitation by a nonbiological parent, the parties can attempt to work out an agreement on access. You may also go through the mediation process to establish a parenting time schedule. When you still cannot reach a compromise, the court will conduct a hearing on the matter. The Texas Standard Possession Order is the benchmark for determinations on visitation, so a party with access to the child may be allowed:
- A few hours every on Thursday evenings;
- Every other weekend;
- Alternating holidays and birthdays; and,
- One month in the summertime.
Still, the best interests of the child are paramount. If the SPO does not meet the criteria, the judge will likely alter the terms to ensure the arrangement supports the child’s emotional, physical, and developmental needs. Geographic distance may also be a factor when the respective households are 100 or more miles apart.
Once a nonbiological parent does have an order granting access, it is legally binding. You can enforce your rights through legal action if a biological parent or any other individual interferes with possession.
Consult With A Texas Child Visitation Attorney To Learn More
As you can see from this overview, there are complex legal issues regarding parenting time for individuals who are not biological parents. Plus, the process for requesting visitation or access can be daunting, which is why retaining experienced counsel is critical. To learn how our team can assist with parenting time questions, please contact The Ramos Law Group, PLLC in Houston, TX. We can schedule a consultation to review your situation and determine how to move forward with your goals.