A Grandparent has legal standing (meaning the legal right) to file an Original Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship ("SAPCR") seeking conservatorship of a child if:
- The grandparent has had care, possession, and control of the child for six months or more, not more than 90 days before filing suit;
- The child's parents are deceased;
- If the child's present circumstances would significantly impair the child's physical health or emotional wellbeing. TFC Section 102.003-4.
A common fact pattern under this Section would be that one or both of the parents is on drugs, and CPS has placed the child with the grandparent. The grandparent sues for custody and child support and alleges that the child would be endangered by being with the parents.
A grandparent has legal standing to file a SAPCR Petition in Intervention into an existing lawsuit to seek conservatorship or possession if they have had "substantial past contact" with the child and appointment of the parents as sole or joint managing conservators would significantly impair the child's physical health or emotional wellbeing. TFC Section 102.004.
A grandparent has legal standing to file an Original Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship seeking possession or access (visitation) if at the time the relief is requested:
- The rights of at least one of the parents have not been terminated
- The grandparent overcomes the presumption that the parents act in the best interest of the child by proving that the denial of the grandparent's possession or access to the child would significantly impair the child's physical health or emotional wellbeing, and
- The grandparent is the parent of the parent of the child, and that parent (i) has been in jail or prison for three months before filing; (ii) is found to be incompetent by a court; (iii) is deceased; or (iv) does not have actual or court-ordered possession of or access to the child. See TFC Section 153.432-3.
TFC Section 102.005 provides that an original Petition for Adoption and Termination of Parental Rights may be filed by:
- An adult who has had actual possession and control of the child for not less than two months during the three months preceding the filing of the petition
- An adult who has adopted, or is the foster parent of and has petitioned to adopt, a sibling of the child
- An adult whom the court determines to have had substantial past contact with the child.
Note, that the time to acquire standing (legal right) to adopt is shorter than the time it takes to acquire standing to sue for custody. However, to be successful, the child's parents' parental rights would need to be terminated either before the adoption petition is filed or as part of the adoption action.
If a child's parents have had their parental rights terminated in a suit brought by CPS, TFC Section 102.006 allows grandparents and other close relatives to file an original suit or a suit for modification requesting managing conservatorship. This must be filed not later than the 90th day after the date the parent-child relationship was terminated. In reality, a grandparent with a grandchild involved in a CPS case should be active in the case from the beginning, should make CPS aware of their interest, should submit to a home study, and should probably hire counsel and file a Petition in Intervention in the CPS lawsuit.
If you are a Grandparent seeking conservatorship or possession of a grandchild and would like representation by Hopkins-Laster Law Office, please contact us.