House Bill 1012, passed by the Texas Legislature and awaiting Governor Perry’s signature, changes the Texas Family Code provisions regarding access by a grandparent to a grandchild over the objections of a parent. The statute allows a court to grant access over a parent’s objection by a grandparent to a grandchild. This changes the prior law that required a court to grant access upon meeting the terms of the statute. Now, a court may or may not grant the access. If the court does grant access over a parent’s objection, the court must enter certain findings about whether the grandparent has overcome the presumption that a fit parent acts in the best interest of that parent’s child by proving that the denial of access to the child would significanly impair the child’s physical health or emotional well-being.
This new law further erodes grandparents’ access to grandchildren, particularly in circumstances where one parent has passed away and the other parent refuses to maintain a relationship with the deceased parent’s family. Instead of requiring the court to award access upon meeting the already high standard of proof set out by the US Supreme Court in Troxel v. Granville, the new law allows a court to either grant access or not grant it, even in the face of the required proof.
As a Dallas family law attorney, I have found the Dallas County family court judges to be very amenable to grandparent access to grandchildren. I have had a couple of cases where one parent passed away and the other parent denied a relationship between the deceased parent’s family. In those cases, the judges have all been very empathetic to the grandparent’s situation and wanted to encourage that relationship. But, I’m sure some judges are not so inclined.