Grandparent rights are always a contentious issue in Texas family law cases, and now the Texas Homeschool Coalition is wading into the fray with the Texas Parental Rights Restoration Act (TPRRA) (HB 2547). The proposed legislation would make it much more difficult for grandparents to obtain court ordered possession of their grandchildren, and it would add a substantial burden to our court system.
Under this bill, grandparents would have to plead by affidavit that denial of possession would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional well-being. The Court would then need to make an initial determination of whether the allegations could support an order for possession and access. If the court rules that the allegations are sufficient, the court would have to set a hearing within 45 days where the grandparent would have to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the allegations in the affidavit are true. Clear and convincing evidence is a higher standard than the preponderance of the evidence, which most civil issues require. Under this standard, the court would not be able to accept the petitioning grandparent’s allegations without corroborating testimony or evidence. That means that the grandparent would have to subpoena additional witnesses within that 45 day period without the benefit of any access to the child. With no access to the child the grandparent would not be able to employ psychologists to evaluate the child’s mental state. Further, even if the grandparent is successful at that initial 45-day hearing, the court still could not issue temporary orders for access to the child under this bill, and presumably would have to issue such orders at a later. This means court could find by clear and convincing evidence that a child’s physical health or emotional well-being are impaired, but would have to put the child back into the damaging situation until a later temporary orders hearing could be scheduled.
A parent’s right to raise his or her child is among the most important rights of all, but this bill would tip the balance of power to far in parents’ favor at the expense of the best interests of children, and the economy of the judicial system. This bill basically guarantees that every grandparent case will begin with a summary judgment motion, which must be handled by the court. Then it forces another rushed, priority hearing onto already busy dockets. Texas family law courts do not need this additional work. Further, this bill raises the requirements for grandparent access to near impossibility. This bill basically requires grandparents to prove their entire case by clear and convincing evidence in 45 days without expert witnesses or access to the child. As a family law attorney, I know this will easily double or triple the cost to pursue a grandparent’s case. If a child is being harmed by denial of access to his or her grandparent’s this will erect huge, nearly insurmountable barriers to justice for that child.
Please urge legislators to oppose this bill. See the numbers below to make a call:
About HB 2547, call:
About HB 1194, call: