On June 26, the Supreme Court of Texas (SCOTX) released a landmark decision permanently reuniting Chris with his 5-year-old daughter Ann. The decision set a strong precedent in Texas that will help protect families for decades.
However, the enormous force it took for the courts to finally decide a fit father had the constitutional right to the custody of his own daughter was impossible for the average family.
THSC members and supporters launched a campaign to help raise public awareness of the case. The video of the story went viral. Organizations and elected officials filed briefs. 10,000 people signed petitions and media outlets nationwide covered the story. People from across the country rose up for little Ann.
It took a herculean effort to achieve what should have been simple justice through the Texas family courts.
How the Legal Battle for Ann Played Out
In August 2019, Chris’s legal team filed an emergency appeal (a mandamus) with the SCOTX, asking them to overturn the lower court decision to give partial custody of Ann to an unrelated man—the man who’d been engaged for two months to Ann’s now-deceased mother.
In September 2019, THSC intervened in the case and filed a brief. THSC argued the court should rule in Chris’s favor on the basis that he has a constitutional right to raise his own daughter.
The first major hurdle: getting the attention of the SCOTX. The court had no obligation to consider the case at all. THSC and the Texas Public Policy Foundation coordinated with Chris’s and Ann’s legal team to identify and recruit additional organizations to intervene and help raise the court’s awareness.
In October 2019, the SCOTX issued a temporary order blocking the trial court’s decision to take custody away from Chris. This was a signal that the high court was prepared to take the case very seriously. The court also requested that the parties submit additional briefs to further explain their arguments.
In December 2019, the Texas Attorney General (AG), Ken Paxton, weighed in. The AG argued that the trial court had violated the law when it granted custody of Ann to an entirely unrelated man over the objections of Chris, a fit parent.
In March 2020, the Family Law Section of the Texas State Bar argued that Chris was not entitled to the custody of his own daughter. Texas Association of Family Defense Attorneys (TAFDA) responded with a brief calling these arguments “absurd,” and detailing the strong constitutional rights entitling Chris to raise his own daughter.
Over the course of this case, the following officials and organizations filed or co-signed briefs in support of Chris and Ann:
- Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton
- 14 Texas state legislators
- The Texas Public Policy Foundation
- Texas Eagle Forum, Grassroots America
- Parental Rights Foundation
- Alliance Defending Freedom
- A Voice for Choice Advocacy
- Texas Values
- Texas Association of Family Defense Attorneys
The Bottom Line
After nearly two years of litigation, two bad lower court decisions, $250,000 of legal fees, and multiple waves of legal support from individuals and organizations around the country, Chris and Ann finally won their case unanimously before the Supreme Court of Texas.
We thank God for this impactful victory.
At the same time, we must ask the hard question: why did the Texas family law system make justice for Chris and Ann so difficult to achieve?
The right decision in the case was so clear that it won unanimous support from all nine Texas Supreme Court justices. Why did multiple lower courts get it wrong?
Bottom line: The reason Chris’s and Ann’s case took so long is that the family law system in Texas lacks accountability.
The Texas Supreme Court has made the law clear beyond reasonable debate. The Texas legislature must now reform the family law system to increase accountability on local courts. Homeschoolers in Texas have been fighting for these reforms through the Family Unity Act for years.
All families, wealthy or not, are entitled to equal justice under the law. THSC has been and will continue advocating in the courts and the legislature for reforms to the family law system to prevent this type of abuse of families.