BIL Needs Information

Updated on February 24, 2009
J.D. asks from Coppell, TX
7 answers

My brother-in-law has a situation where he got a girl pregnant before leaving for the navy 13 years ago. While he was deployed, the mother and her parents disappeared. He got a PI and found them 2 years ago. Apparently, the mother was deemed unfit by her own parents to raise her child and the grandparents have been raising him since he was an infant. My brother-in-law is a very responsible man and would like to have time alone with his child (the grandparents won't allow this) and would prefer to be raising his son himself.

What right do the grandparents have to keep his son from him? They have not adopted his son because that would require consent by my BIL. My BIL is currently trying to establish child support to get visitation rights established. The Grandparents did not request child support and will be concerned to lose the control they are wielding currently. What rights does my BIL have? Does my BIL have the right to take custody of his child?

My BIL, since he was able to find his son two years ago, has spent as much time as these people have allowed. He goes to nearly every event his son has and spends holidays at their home. They just will not allow him to take his son by himself or even spend time alone with him. They are very controlling and are pushing his son to be in baseball year round. It's like they are priming him and my BIL would like to be able to talk to his son about this and if he would like to spend more time together. He's not trying to force a situation. He has been patient for 2 years.

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answers from Dallas on

Your BIL has the right to petition for custody, but please remember that the child is now 12-13 years old, and it can have significant negative impact on the child to suddenly remove the child from the grandparents, especially considering that the child was already removed from the mother. However, I think your BIL is doing everything right by trying to establish child support and visitation. I think it is important for both of them to have a relationship, but I would really consider removing the child from the grandparents. I don't believe the grandparents have the right to keep the child away from your BIL, but that doesn't mean that they won't try and there can be a lengthy court battle. I think your BIL should try to have time time together with the grandparents or a third-party observer and slowly build a relationship. I can understand the grandparent's apprehension of suddenly letting the child alone with a stranger, and your BIL is a stranger at this point no matter what biology says. I think a battle over custody can make things ugly and lead to resentment on everyone's part. I think your BIL should do what he can to see his son, but try to be as nice as possible about it to make it as easy on the son as possible. After all it is ultimately about what is best for the child not your BIL.

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answers from Dallas on

I'm no lawyer, but I would say that your BIL has every right to see his son or to even get custody. His rights to see his son have NOTHING to do with whether or not he is paying support. By law, grandparents have NO legal rights unless they have been granted as guardians or adopt the child.

What a terrible thing these people have done to this boy and his father by keeping them apart!! They have also made it more complicated for themselves and their grandson (how selfish). That being said, I hope that your BIL thinks about the wishes of his son (at 13 they often have to right to choose where they live in a normal divorce situation). It sounds like he is a good man who loves his son. I hope and pray that they will find a compromise that will be good for everyone.



answers from Dallas on

He has all the right and does not have to establish child support to get visitation. Is he named on the birth certificate? Is the mother still around as she can literally give the child to him (not that I suggest that)? He needs to get a lawyer and file for custody bearing in mind that a child that age will be given a 'say' but not the complete choice. Custody, visitation and child support will be determined by the judge. Have him keep a record or every visit/phone call and the outcome or what happened/was said. My children would have loved to get to know their father so I applaud your BIL. I know why the grands will not let him take the child - in Texas, since they do not have custody they really have no legal rights at this time and your BIL does - not to say the court won't grant them rights....I keep wondering if the mom is really unfit or if the parents just think they are 'better'.........good luck to him!



answers from Dallas on

We've been through custody "battles" in our own family and I've seen it with my BIL's family as well. What I've witnessed is that each state has different laws regarding the custody of minors. Depending on what state the child is in will weigh heavily on the grandparents' rights. Texas gives grandparents more rights than a lot of states. That said, most courts will still, regardless of paternity, set up custody arrangements in situations like this that are in the best interest of the child. So, if your BIL has to take the child's grandparents to court, there is no guarantee he will win custody just because he is the child's biological father, ESPECIALLY given the child's age. Most courts will take the child's wishes into account after the age of 12. He may be able to get unsupervised visitation, but no guarantees on actual custody.

Also, I don't believe he has to set up child support in order to get visitation. Those two issues are usually separate when it comes to child custody. If the grandparents don't want it, I personally would only pursue the custody issue, and let them go after support if that's what they want. He should know that they can possibly get back child support as well if the court determines that's in the child's best interest.

He has every right to pursue custody, but it's not cut and dry when it comes to family law nowadays. I'm sure there will be lots of "Why did he wait so long to try to find him?" and "Why does he want to take the child away from the only people he's ever known?", blah blah blah. Even the mom could come back in the picture and try to get custody so that she could keep the child with the grandparents if they decided to go that route. It could get very ugly. There will probably be home studies and psychological evaluations. But, as the biological parent, it is his right to pursue it and he can probably at least get visitation if nothing else.



answers from Dallas on

Your BIL has more rights than he knows, he is the biological parent. He should get an attorney, he actually has more rights than the grandparents, that is his child. I'm sure the grandparents just love and adore their grandson and are just scared of losing him, he's become their child. Any of us parents would die for our kids, even if the kid was adopted. Grandparents care that much too, some a lot. Even though they are being controlling tell him to be the bigger person, never say anything bad about them around his son, and just go through the courts. Even though the grandparents have raised him all of his life, he will get custody of his child. It will be hard on his son, but I can tell he loves him and wants him around.
May God bless your family



answers from Dallas on

I don't know the law, but I would imagine he has rights. However, this child is now 13 years old and has been raised by his grandparents and doesn't know his father. Why has your bil waited 13 years to try to get custody? It could be very damaging to the child to get in a huge battle over custody. If your bil loves his son and wants what's best for him and the grandparents are good people, he should work with the boy and grandparents to find a compromise. In my opinion, if the grandparents are good to him and he loves them and wants to stay with them , then his wishes should be respected by your bil. I understand he wants to build a relationship with his son, but his son's welfare comes first.



answers from Dallas on

He has all the rights in the world....If he does a paternity test to prove that it is his son and they have not adopted him they can't hold the child from him. If there is no paperwork in place that says the grandparents are the guardians for him he can take them to court and get custody. They would have to prove him unfit.

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