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When grandparents get caught up in divorce and child custody fights

Being a grandparent is a truly special role for many parents out there. Grandparents can be a huge help to their adult children and their families, watching the grandbabies and often paying for certain items and opportunities. No parent wants to think that their child will ever be divorced. And no grandparent would want to think that the end of a marriage would mean the end of their relationship with their grandchildren.

But sadly, this scenario plays out all too often in Texas and throughout the United States. Grandparents who have been extremely involved in the support and care of their grandchildren find themselves fighting for the right to remain in their lives. They are torn between still wanting to financially help their grandbabies but then feeling as though they should have some visitation rights to the kids or even that they should have custody of the children.

In Texas and many other states, it is not easy for grandparents to win visitation or child custody rights. Family courts tend to favor the rights of parents and will generally only consider formalizing grandparents' rights in extreme situations. At the center of any family law dispute involving children is the best interest of the children. Therefore, if grandparents can prove that a child is in danger with her parents or that by not being with the grandparents she would be emotionally or physically impaired, then they might have chance in court to sue for custody or visitation.

What generally will not play a role in helping achieve custody or visitation rights is a statement of how much money grandparents spend on supporting their grandkids. This isn't to say that grandparents should stop helping out their family, but it is important for grandparents to be prepared for likely legal disappointment if they go to court with a list of expenses they've covered in hopes that the facts will work in their favor. Courts tend to look at obvious safety and health issues, such as chemical dependency and domestic abuse when making decisions regarding children.

Divorce can be an emotional process not just for those splitting up but for the kids and the grandparents as well. With clear communication and knowledgeable, compassionate, straightforward legal help, a family can get out of a divorce with a healthier, happier outcome.

Source: Reuters, "Grandparents, purse strings and divorce," Temma Ehrenfeld, July 23, 2012

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