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. 

Click here to see the text of HB 1012.

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.

Print:
Email this postTweet this postLike this postShare this post on LinkedIn
Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, 2011-2018, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2014-2018, Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2016 and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.