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Parental Presumption in Modifications

On Behalf of | Jul 15, 2020 | Family Law |

It’s not too often that child custody cases make it all the way to the state supreme court. However, this case In Re C.J.C. has some unusual circumstances. It has all the usual hallmarks of a child custody battle, but what sets this case apart is the fact that one of the people seeking custody isn’t related to the child at all, either through birth or adoption.

Tragic Death and an Unusual Custody Case

It started with a sudden and tragic death in a 2018 car accident. The woman who died had a three-year-old daughter, and was in the middle of a custody fight with the child’s father. She was also in a serious relationship, having lived with her boyfriend for nearly a year. The child’s father and mother were never married; however, had a custody order that divided possession of the child almost equally. Because of this living arrangement, the child spent roughly half of her time in a home with both her mother and her mother’s boyfriend.

In the midst of tragedy and grief, a strange custody case emerged. The child’s father, as one might assume, wanted full custody of the child. However, the mother’s boyfriend sued for partial custody, creating an unusual case for the Texas courts. Perhaps even more surprising is the fact that a judge granted the boyfriend a visitation schedule, and limited possessory rights of a parent. The child’s father fought the case and the case has made it all the way to the state Supreme Court.

What It Means for Texas Law

Attorney General Ken Paxton has voiced his support for the father in this case. “The state has no clear reason to force itself into a family when a fit parent is fulfilling his obligation to care for his child,” says Paxton. Paxton has also pointed toward parental rights laws in Texas, believing that the initial ruling violates those rights. People in the legal field were keeping their eyes on this case. Could this case change public interpretation of Texas law? What does this mean for parents and children?

The Texas Supreme Court ruled that the trial court made a mistake by granting some child custody to the former boyfriend of the child’s deceased mother although the father objected.  The court confirmed that the due process clause of the 14th Amendment protects the rights of a fit parent to parent a child without government interference.  When the trial court awarded the boyfriend some custody, it was substituting its own judgment in place of the father’s decision about what was in the child’s best interest, the opinion said.

Accordingly, the Texas Supreme Court concluded that a court must apply the presumption that a fit parent—not the court—determines the best interest of the child in any proceeding in which a nonparent seeks conservatorship or access over the objection of a child’s fit parent in all cases.

Seeking Legal Counsel For Custody Cases

When it comes to divorce, custody arrangements should follow the best interests of the children. As this recent case demonstrates, law and circumstances can throw a curveball and make people question what those “best interests” are. In any case, with child custody arguments, it’s always important to get legal counsel from an experienced source.

If you’re seeking legal counsel of your own, get in touch with us at Moran Law Firm. We’re committed to fighting for what’s best for children.