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Barbara L. Jouette, Attorney, P.C.
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Texas considers major changes for family member visitation rights

Family laws are in place in order to protect families and ensure the best interests of all children are looked out for. As laws become outdated or the need for change arises, lawmakers develop and consider new bills to better serve and protect families. Support is mounting for a bill supporting grandparents' rights that currently is being deliberated on by a judiciary committee in Texas' House of Representatives. If passed, the bill could have major ramifications on the future family law landscape in Texas, as well as other states.

Under the proposed bill, aunts and uncles, grandparents and great-grandparents would be given the legal right to pursue visitation of a child. It would also allow families with two-parents to be taken to court. While many in the opposition fear this will lead to an onslaught of family law issues and lawsuits, supporters claim it will only provide the opportunity for those lawsuits to be filed. Family members who want to seek visitation rights will still have to afford the legal expenses that come with filing a lawsuit.

The law that is presently in place allows grandparents to pursue visitation rights for their grandchild when there is only one parent raising the child and they believe that child is being harmed or somehow put at risk. Additionally, grandparents cannot currently file lawsuits against their own child for visitation of a grandchild; they can only sue the other parent.

There is much debate over the proposed bill and the effects it could have, but the important thing for lawmakers to consider here is whether this bill would further benefit the state's children. The law could result in increased lawsuits, but it could also help some children who otherwise may not have been.

Source: KUT News, "Grandparental Rights Bill Up for Committee Debate at Capitol", Veronica Zaragovia, April 15, 2013

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