On March 21, 2017, the Dallas Court of Appeals reversed and remanded an order appointing paternal grandmother a joint managing conservator with the child’s mother, In The Interest of J.R.W, A Child.
For a person to bring a lawsuit, they must have standing to do so, meaning that they have a connection to the matter and a stake in the outcome. Statutes set forth the requirements for a person to have standing in regard to a claim, and for grandparents, standing regarding conservatorship (custody) or possession or access to their grandchildren is set out in the Texas Family Code.
In this case, grandmother intervened into a suit affecting the parent-child relationship filed after the parents who had never married had separated. The child’s mother challenged grandmother’s standing to intervene in the suit, which was a threshold issue. The court of appeals found that grandmother had standing under Texas Family Code §153.432 to request possession or access to the child, and had filed the required affidavit (and a later an amended affidavit) with supporting facts that the denial of her request would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional well-being.
If the court determines the facts in the affidavit if true are not sufficient to grant the relief requested, then the court shall deny the relief and dismiss the grandparent’s suit. The mother complained that some of the facts in the affidavit did not exist at the time grandmother filed, but occurred afterward. The court held that grandmother’s affidavit was not required to stand or fall only on facts existing at the time she filed; since she was not basing her standing on the family code section that she had actual care, control, or possession of the child for a least six months not more than 90 days before filing.
The mother then complained that the order failed to contain specific findings by the trial court required under Texas Family Code §153.433 when a grandparent is granted possession and access over a parent’s objections. §153.433 as amended now follows the U. S. Supreme Court decision in Troxel v. Granville that there is a presumption that a parent acts in his child’s best interest. Because of this presumption, the trial court must include specific findings in its order granting grandparent possession and access; those findings cannot be implied or deemed by looking at the record as a whole. For this reason, the case was reversed and remanded back to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with the opinion.
So, although grandmother not only survived the challenge to bring the suit but also was ultimately named a joint managing conservator, the judgment was reversed for not containing the mandatory findings as to why this relief was granted; illustrating the strict statutory requirements that must be met in grandparent access actions.