Four important parental rights bills were recently filed by strong homeschool supporters Senator Donna Campbell, Representative Jodie Laubenberg and Representative Scott Sanford. The breakdown includes:
- Senate Bill 815 by Sen. Campbell and House Bill 2890 by Rep. Laubenberg apply an existing parental presumption to modification suits.
- Senate Bill 816 by Sen. Campbell and House Bill 1899 by Rep. Sanford protect the authority of fit parents acting in the best interest of their children.
SB 815 & HB 2890: Presumption that Parents Should Have Custody of Their Child
SB 815 and HB 2890 deal specifically with a type of case called a modification lawsuit. A modification reopens a previously resolved case for the purpose of modifying the judge’s final order.
An example would be reopening a divorce case if there has been a significant change in circumstances since the final order. Litigants can petition to have the case reopened or “modified.”
In normal cases there is a “parental presumption,” which requires the court to presume that a parent should have custody of their child. However, modification suits do not have the same requirement.
In other words, when the parent is sued the first time they are protected by the “parental presumption” in the law. When that same case is reopened a second time and “modified” they are no longer protected.
Within modification cases, non-parent third parties can sue for custody and—although the parent may be entirely fit to raise their child—the court will not presume that the fit parent should be given custody of their own child in that case.
These bills would require the court to recognize the same “parental presumption” in these modification cases as in normal cases. This will require that in a modification suit, as well as in a normal suit, the court must presume that a fit parent should be given custody of the child.
SB 815 and HB 2890 seek to protect parents from outside parties trying to take conservatorship of their children through modification suits. A parent should not lose their parental presumption strictly because an old case was reopened through a modification suit and they were sued a second time.
SB 816 & HB 1899: Protecting the Parental Rights of Fit Parents
SB 816 and HB 1899 define a “fit parent” according to the definition used by the U.S. Supreme Court: a parent who adequately cares for his or her child. Further, the bill would prohibit courts from issuing an order against the objections of a fit parent.
These decisions often involve simple parenting disagreements between the judge and the parent. Examples include how the child should be educated, whether particular persons should be allowed to spend time with the child, where the child should live, and other important decisions.
THSC believes in the U.S. Constitutional law requirement that a fit parent should not be overruled simply because a court disagrees with them.
Instead, under SB 816 and HB 1899, the court is prohibited from making an order that overrules a parent unless the parent is unfit or the court is required to overrule the parent in order to protect the child.
THSC and the THSC Watchmen will continue Keeping Texas Families Free by defending the parental rights and freedoms of Texas parents. Please consider supporting the THSC Watchmen as they work to protect homeschoolers in Austin by donating today!