After a divorce or other family event, separation of brothers and/or sisters is always a possibility, either voluntarily or out of necessity. Sometimes a family’s needs are varied and separation helps a situation work for everyone, such as one child with the father and another with the mother. Other times, a separation is mandatory, and a court order enforces it.
Most of the emphasis is on a child’s parentage—which one will have custody, if it’s shared, etc. But the courts are increasingly required to consider and rule on access by non-parent relatives, mostly grandparents who suddenly find themselves forcibly detached from grandchildren after a divorce. A recent article in the Fort Worth Star Telegram details House Bill 57.5, to help give shut-out grandparents some visitation rights.
Another aspect of non-parental visitation rights that’s not often discussed is that of separated siblings. They would like to see their brothers and sisters, but are prevented from doing so by a parent or other obstacle.
Requesting Sibling Visitation
Texas Family Code Title 5, Section 156.001, Section (c) details the modification of an order regarding a child’s conservatorship (custody.) Sibling separations can happen after an action of Department of Family and Protective Services. A sibling can file an original suit for modification, or file a suit under Chapter 156 to request access to the child. The sibling must be over the age of 18.
The sibling will be required to include with the suit an affidavit that indicates one of these allegations, along with proof that:
- The child’s current environment may be a danger to its physical and/or mental health or development
- The current custodial individual agrees to the modification, has relinquished possession and care of the child, and that it is in the best interest of the child
- Note that this does not apply to a parent who has been called up for a military deployment
- A child has told a judge in chambers about his or her preferences
This only applies to visitation and access, not actual custody (conservatorship.)
The Best Interest Of The Child
The crux of any nearly any litigation involving custody is what the judge believes is in the best interest of any child. It’s important to show in a petition why an action like this one would be a good idea and beneficial to the child in question.
In our previous blog on child custody, we detailed the criteria for deciding on what’s best for a child when deciding where they will go.
Should the sibling decide to petition for actual custody (conservatorship), he or she would have to petition the court as any other third-party litigant would (i.e., grandparents or other relatives.)
Your Attorney For Conservatorship Issues In Fort Worth, TX
Wendy L. Hart is an experienced family law attorney helping Tarrant County residents with conservatorship and other family law needs, representing both men and women. After her own divorce, Wendy became familiar with the divorce process as well everything it entails.