I am concerned about the safety of my grandchild.

You may also be able to get emergency relief in the form of a protective order and follow up with a suit to modify conservatorship.

It is possible for a grandparent or other non-parent to become a managing conservator. It can be very difficult, especially if you want to be the ONLY managing conservator. The Texas Family Code says that a parent or both parents should always be a managing conservator unless it is not in the child’s best interest (because it would significantly hurt the child’s physical health or emotional development). You must prove to the court that living with you is in the child’s best interest.

A court may be more likely to appoint you managing conservator if:

  • the parent has voluntarily given up the child to you or some other person or agency; or
  • both of the child’s parents are dead.

There may be other reasons as well. Contact an attorney for advice and assistance. An attorney can help you file a motion to modify the court order. Read more about motions to modify. Also, check with your local law library for the forms to file the motion to modify yourself or go to www.texaslawhelp.org. The process will be much easier if the parent agrees that you should become the managing conservator.

Can the court give me the right to visit my grandchild?

The easiest way to visit with your grandchild is to establish or maintain positive relations with the child’s parents. Only one parent has to give permission, as long as you are visiting the child during that parent’s period of possession.

Under some circumstances, grandparents can obtain a court order granting them the right to visit their grandchildren over the objection of parents.

Contact an attorney for more information.

How do I know if I have a Standard Possession Order (SPO)?

Look at your order underneath the heading “Possession and Access Order.” If the noncustodial parent is given the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends (beginning on Friday and ending on Sunday), a weeknight visit once a week during the school term, a period of extended summer visitation, and shared holidays, then you probably have an SPO.

What’s the best way to prepare my child for an extended absence from me?

Prepare your child for extended absences in several ways. An extended absence for a very young child may be as short as a week. Here are some tips:

  • If going on a trip, show the child on a map where the child will be.
  • Talk about the weather where the child will be.
  • Plan together what to pack for the fun times the child will have while away.
  • Encourage your child to have a good time on the break from you and everyday routines.
  • Give your child a calendar and you both can mark off the days.
  • Ask your child to put drawings or funny stories into a special envelope to bring back home and share with you.
  • Send a fun note, text message, or email.
  • Tape record the child’s favorite bedtime story and send along.
  • Do not make the child feel guilty for going.
  • Schedule at least one time to call the other parent. Set an alarm and don’t forget.

Plan something special when your child returns. Children often fuss and cry when going back and forth between families. They want to reassure each of you that they love you and will miss you (and that you’ll take them back). It’s normal to be fussy during the exchange. Once the other parent is out of sight, most children will bounce back after a few minutes of quiet time.

Why should my child spend long periods of time with the other parent?

Many studies have shown that children are more likely to thrive when both parents are actively involved in their lives. Extended times with both parents are built into the standard possession order (for children ages 3 and older) to facilitate vacations or extended family time. Flexibility and understanding when working with very young children is important for ensuring the child adjusts easily to extended time away from the primary caregiver. Children benefit when they have time with both parents.

My parents would like to take my children for the weekend or during part of the summer during my extended summer visitation. Do I need the custodial parent’s permission?

Check your court order for restrictions, but generally there are none. During your periods of possession, you have the right to let the children visit their grandparents, spend the night at a friend’s home, or engage in activities as long as they return to the other parent on time. You may allow your parents to take the children on a vacation, even out of state. Avoid misunderstandings by letting the other parent know when the children are traveling with your parents or relatives. Write up the days and locations and contact information to keep everyone on track and informed.

Does a protective order affect a visitation order?

A current protective order (not expired) addressing parenting time or visitation takes precedence over another court order. If you have a protective order that addressed parenting time and the protective order has expired, another valid order is the controlling order. If you have a current order giving you visitation rights or access to your child, an expired protective order does not affect those rights.

If there is no court order, an expired protective order is evidence of a history or pattern of family violence. If the protective order is less than 2 years old, the judge must consider it. If it is more than 2 years old, it is an option the judge may consider.

I am planning to move. Will this change my visitation/court order?

Check your court order to see if moving is restricted. In general, if you move less than 100 miles away from your child, your visitation will not change.

If you have the standard possession order AND a parent moves more than 100 miles away from your child, then you may have the option of changing to one weekend a month instead of every 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekend. Some parents continue the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekend if time and money allow. Summer visitation will become longer (from about 30 days to about 42 days) and you will get possession of your child every year during spring break rather than every other year. You may have to give up your weekday visits.

If the alternate schedule works better for you, you have 90 days after you move to give the other parent notice that you have moved, and that you intend to exercise the alternate possession schedule.

Unless the court order has a different requirement, you may have to drive to the custodial parent’s house to pick up and drop off your child (unless you and the other parent make another arrangement). The costs of transportation, including flying, can be addressed in the court order. Some orders require the parent that is moving to pay all costs, and other orders require the parents to divide the costs equally or in proportion to their incomes.

How will the move affect your child? Moving may reduce the time you can spend with your child. There are ways to fill this gap, such as scheduling time every week or so to talk to your child on the phone, or online. If you schedule a time to communicate, follow through to keep from disappointing your child. Most importantly, make sure your child understands why you are moving and that you still want to be an involved parent.

What happens if I must work on a weekend when I am supposed to have my children?

If you cannot pick up your children when it is your time for possession, you must notify the custodial parent ahead of time. Virtually all visitation orders allow parents to swap weekends, or make any other visitation arrangements they wish, as long as both parents agree. If both parents cannot agree on a change, then that visitation period is lost.

Parents who must work during their weekends can offer additional time to the other parent or offer to swap weekends. The other parent is not required to change or accept the additional time or weekends. Children benefit when parents are flexible and able to work out mutually agreeable swaps.