In the most recent (and currently ongoing) parental rights case before the Supreme Court of Texas, Chris and his 5-year-old daughter, Ann, are petitioning the state’s highest civil court for an order protecting their parent-child relationship from intrusion by an unrelated man who is currently seeking custody of Ann.
This unrelated man previously dated (and was briefly engaged to) Ann’s mother prior to the mother’s death in a tragic car accident. Despite spending less than six months with Ann and being completely unrelated to her, this man argues that he has a greater right to custody of Ann than Ann’s father does.
However, this man has not accused Ann’s father of being a bad parent. On the contrary, he has acknowledged that Ann’s father is a fit parent who raises Ann well. Instead, this man argues that he should be able to take Ann from her father simply because he lived with Ann’s mother (and with Ann during her mother’s periods of possession) for a few months.
On April 22, 2020, the Supreme Court of Texas held a hearing on the case, during which the unrelated man’s attorney argued (contrary to constitutional law) that there is not any presumption in the case that Ann’s father has a right to raise her.
Following the hearing, the unrelated man’s attorney filed a brief that raised a number of entirely new arguments. Summarily, the brief acknowledged (for the first time) that Ann’s father has constitutional rights which are at play in the case. However, the brief argued that Ann’s constitutional right to have her best interests upheld conflicts with her father’s constitutional right to raise her.
The brief then argued that the opinions of Ann’s father about what is in Ann’s best interests should be given no greater weight than the opinions of an unrelated man.
However, as the response brief filed by the attorney for Ann’s father correctly pointed out, the unrelated man’s argument that the constitutional rights of Ann and her father somehow conflict is based on an incorrect understanding of constitutional law as it relates to parental rights. Long-established case law from the Supreme Court of the United States requires courts to presume that the rights of parents and their children align.
Furthermore, as the Supreme Court of the United States explained in Troxel v. Granville, “there is a presumption that fit parents act in the best interests of their children.” Since all parties in the case agree that Ann’s father is a fit parent who raises Ann well, the decisions of Ann’s father are presumed to be in Ann’s best interests.
This brief is only the latest attack on parental rights that has been launched during the case. Fortunately, the Supreme Court of Texas has an opportunity to stop these attacks by issuing an order allowing Ann to stay with her father permanently.
Traditionally, the Supreme Court of Texas has ruled on all of the cases that it has heard in a given year by June 30 of that year. If that pattern continues, the Supreme Court of Texas could likely rule on this monumental case by the end of the month.
As we wait for a ruling on this case, please take a moment to sign the petition supporting Ann and her father in their fight to stay together!
THSC is actively working to help Ann and her father win a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court of Texas, as part of our efforts to continue Keeping Texas Families Free!