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Brandon M.
Brandon M., Family Law Attorney
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 12235
Experience:  Attorney experienced in all aspects of family law
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My granddaughter is 14 years old. Her parents have shared custody.

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My granddaughter is 14 years old. Her parents have shared custody. Her mother has her 8 days and her father (my son) has here 6. Her mother is a labor and delivery nurse who works nights. She has started working on the first night she has my Granddaughter, leaving her at home alone. My granddaughter is afraid to be home alone. She could stay with her father one more night, or she could stay with me where she would also feel safe. She hasn't told her father yet because when he tries to talk to her mother about any issue she makes my granddaughter's life miserable for the entire 8 days she has her. I am stuck in the middle and am awake all night watching my their house (across the street from mine) to be sure my granddaughter is alright. Can anything be done about this?
Submitted: 10 months ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  Brandon M. replied 10 months ago.

Brandon M. :

Hello there.

Customer:

Hi

Brandon M. :

Hi, thank you for your question.

Brandon M. :

This sounds like a stressful situation.

Brandon M. :

What outcome do you believe would be right for the situation?

Customer:

It is very stressful. I want my granddaughter to be safe. I would like her to be able to be with her father and step-mother...not alone.

Brandon M. :

Well, that would seem perfectly reasonable based on the information provided. Do you know when the last time the court's custody order was updated?

Customer:

The divorce was finalized about a year ago. They have not been back to court since then. They used a mediator.

Brandon M. :

Would it make any difference if you sought visitation for that night when the mother is working, instead of her father?

Brandon M. :

Although grandparents are not automatically entitled to visitation, they can get court-ordered visitation from the court if the parents are divorced. This is an option regardless of whether one or both parents object to the grandparent visitation, as long as the visitation would be in the child's best interests.

Customer:

I believe the agreement states that if she is with me, it is the same as her being with her father. That was probably put in there to keep her mother from taking advantage of me but it has created a real problem for my granddaughter. I'm sure my son thought he was protecting me but now mu granddaughter doesn't have neutral ground to run to. I didn't know I could do that. I would be fine with that and I know my granddaughter would be also.

Customer:

I have maintained communication with my x-daughter-in-law so that at least someone can talk to her without her going ballistic. I am afraid to ask her about this because I don't want her going nuts all over my granddaughter.

Brandon M. :

There's a difference between saying that time spent with the grandparent counts as time spent with the father--it wouldn't give the grandparent any actual visitation rights. It would just allocate how the time spent is counted for purposes of custody and support. Grandparents can seek an independent order for visitation. It would allow for the visitation to take place regardless of whether the parents consent.

Brandon M. :

I understand, and you just have to recognize what you can and can't control in your situation. Naturally, you want to minimize conflict, but the mother is ultimately responsible for her own conduct.

Brandon M. :

So there's really no court order that can turn a parent into a good person. If there's a need for a change in the custody order, you have to weigh the benefits against the detriments of seeking an order. I do present to you that Texas allows grandparents to seek independent visitation when the parents are divorced, so there is more than one way to confront the problem.

Customer:

OK...so I need to get a lawyer and request visitation rights in order to protect my granddaughter. I can do that. As any good grandmother I want to control the situation...lol. No one is able to control her mother. As long as we're talking...is there an age where my granddaughter can say "I do not want to live with this woman anymore."?

Brandon M. :

There's no age when a minor child gets to decide where she lives. Custody is determined based on the best interests of the child, regardless of the child's age. However, as a child gets older, their opinion carries more weight. A court will almost always submit to the wishes of an articulate, mature 16 year old who can explain a logical rationale for her preferences, but a court will hardly give any weight to a 13 year old who wants to live with dad because "I dunno... it'd be cool, I guess." A 14 year old's wishes will be considered, but the weight given will depend on the totality of the circumstances.

Customer:

Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX know my son and new daughter-in-law are saving up to take his x back to court when my Granddaughter reaches 15. His lawyer said the same thing you just said. I did not expect his x to pull this. She is a work-a-holic but has restrained herself until now. I will talk with my granddaughter and then we'll talk with my son and get something going. I take it I can't call someone and report this as child endangerment.

Brandon M. :

I don't know your granddaughter, so I don't know if it is endangerment. There's no specific age at which leaving a child home alone ceases to be considered child endangerment. She's 14 and she's right across the street from her grandmother, so it's not clear to me that she is in danger any more than she would be if there was another adult in the house. If she was developmentally disabled, then it would likely be obvious, but the typical 14 year old would be able to take care of herself overnight. It really depends on the child.

Brandon M. :

You can always anonymously report the situation to CPS and let them investigate, but I'm not in any position to guess if she's safe there by herself. If you're not sure, play it safe.

Customer:

OK, I really do appreciate you talking with me tonight. My position is frustrating as I know it is for many grandparents.

Brandon M. :

I hate to be vague, but I want to be responsible, and that means that I can't guess. I can only explain the law, but it's up to you how to handle your cases. Because the nuances of every situation are different, this information should not be construed as complete or advice without consulting in person with counsel, so ask for a more detailed assessment of the child endangerment concern when you go to speak with a lawyer about grandparent visitation.

Brandon M. :

It was my pleasure to speak with you. Did you have any other question?

Customer:

Thank you...I feel better...even if the situation hasn't changed.

Brandon M., Family Law Attorney
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 12235
Experience: Attorney experienced in all aspects of family law
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