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Some calling for changes to Texas Grandparent Access law

Grandparents play a valuable role in the lives of millions of children across Texas. Whether they're occasional visitors or are actively raising their children's children, grandparents have much to offer to children as they grow into caring, responsible adults.

If a child's parents die or get divorced, grandparents can become isolated from the child beyond their control. Texas and many other states have laws protecting grandparents' rights, but some critics have said the Texas Grandparent Access law goes too far by allowing grandparents to take custody of children when it may not be necessary. A home-school coalition in Lubbock is aiming to change the law to limit its powers and keep the best interests of children at heart, rather than the adults fighting over them.

An example of possible abuse of the law can be found in the case of a 43-year-old Lubbock woman whose 15-year-old son was having substance abuse problems. Her parents, who live in New Mexico, happen to run a program designed for teens who struggle with such issues, so she asked them to enter her son into the program.

But after the boy went to New Mexico, the grandparents opted to keep him there and filed a case requesting legal custody. It was then that the mother discovered her son had never entered the program. Making matters worse, the judge in the child custody case ruled the mother was unfit because she'd enrolled her child in a substance abuse program.

The Texas Home School Coalition's director said cases like these are what make changes to the law necessary. He's lobbying lawmakers to pass the Texas Parental Rights Restoration Act, which would eliminate temporary orders in cases that don't involve abuse or neglect. Grandparents seeking custody would have to prove a child was being emotionally harmed by a parent in cases where grandparent access is denied. Some family law experts disagree, saying grandparents already can't get access and custody without extreme circumstances.

Just as in child custody decisions between two divorcing parents, cases involving grandparents shouldn't be based on who has more money or a bigger house. Parents have certain constitutional rights to their children, but there are cases that warrant grandparents' interference, such as emotional or physical harm. Ultimately, the decision of who should care for a child should still be based on that child's best interest.

Source: KCBD, "Critics: Grandparent access law threatens parental rights," Natasha Sweatte and Nick Clark, Aug. 27, 2012

· Our firm handles a wide variety of grandparent custody cases and other family law issues. To learn more about our practice, please visit out Dallas family law page.

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