The THSC Policy Team recently opposed two bills during the 2017 Texas legislature that would be harmful to parental rights.
HB 3806 Takes Away Parental Rights
HB 3806 would negatively impact evidence standards protecting a parent who is being sued for possession of or access to their child. Under the specific section of the law affected by the bill, this would be in situations where a single parent is being sued by in-laws to force the parent to give them access to the parent’s child.
Currently, when a family member sues, they must submit an affidavit with evidence showing that their request is necessary to protect the child. The statute then leaves it up to a judge to evaluate the evidence submitted in the affidavit, including the presence or absence of an expert opinion.
But, this bill directly states that the party suing is not required to provide expert testimony in their affidavit. This would allow the non-parents seeking access to the child to overcome the rights of the fit parent without any expert opinion on whether it is necessary to protect the child.
Additionally, the bill expands the current law to say that any parent in the state could be sued for access to their child. Currently, only single parents are eligible to be sued.
This bill would tip the scale in favor of vindictive in-laws who wish to gain access to or possession of a child without having to provide expert evidence, such as what took place in the Jim Loose case.
HB 4174 Gives Too Much Power to Outside Parties
HB 4174 would expand the Texas Family Code to allow more family members to be sued for access or possession to their children, placing parental rights at risk.
Currently, state law protects adoptive parents from being sued, unless they are an adoptive step-parent. Under this bill, the law would be expanded to also allow a suit when a child is adopted by anyone within the “third degree of consanguinity”—or three steps of removal from the child within the family. In other words, the bill expands the list of parents who will be unprotected from these damaging lawsuits.
This bill is also based on flawed logic. Specifically, that an in-law should not be allowed to sue a stranger adopting their child, but they should be allowed to sue an extended family member adopting the child.
The Result of THSC fighting HB 3806 and HB 4174
THSC has spoken with the authors and committee members to express our concerns and testified against the bills in committee. Thanks to our friends and parental rights advocates on the committee, neither HB 3806 nor HB 4174 have the necessary support to be passed out of committee.
We are pleased to report that both of these threatening bills have stalled in the legislature.
This is just one of the many ways the THSC Policy Team and the Watchmen are working to protect parental rights during the 2017 Texas legislature in Austin.
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