Bill Calls for Restrictions in Texas Grandparent Access Law

A 43-year-old Lubbock woman is locked in a dispute with her parents over the custody of the Texas woman’s son. The court argument between the 15-year-old’s mother and the teen’s out-of-state grandparents has roused some Texas officials to clarify child custody laws.

The nearly two-decade old Texas Grandparent Access law ensures that grandparents remain connected to grandchildren after the death or divorce of a child’s parent. A bill, currently in search of a sponsor, calls for new limitations to keep non-parents from using existing laws to override parental legal custody rights.

The head of the Texas Home School Coalition in Lubbock is the author of the proposed legislation called the Texas Parental Rights Restoration Act.

The bill hopes to eradicate temporary custody orders brought by non-parents when cases don’t involve child neglect or abuse. Grandparents would also be required to prove within 45 days that a child’s emotional well-being would be damaged without a continued grandparents’ relationship.

The Lubbock woman’s case involves a troubled teen who was sent to his grandparents in New Mexico to join a Teen Challenge program. The grandparents were program directors who the parent thought could help the boy.

The grandparents allegedly never enrolled the 15-year-old in the rehabilitation program and sued their daughter for child custody. A New Mexico judge granted the grandparents’ request.

The judge ruled the Texas parent was unfit for sending her son to Teen Challenge. The youth program came under fire by state officials, who found evidence the children in Teen Challenge were treated harshly.

A Texas Tech legal professor believes state laws already adequately protect parents’ constitutional rights. The instructor said laws clearly state that grandparents cannot gain custody of grandchildren without “extreme circumstances” in which a parent poses a danger to a child’s wellbeing.

The legal status quo isn’t satisfactory to the Texas Home School Coalition director, who plans to push his proposal before the state legislature early next year.

Source:, “Critics: Grandparent access law threatens parental rights,” Natasha Sweatte and James Clark, Aug. 28, 2012

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