Did you know that under the current state of the law in Texas, it is easier for a non-relative who had minimal involvement with a child but lived under the same roof to get in the door on a custody suit than it is for a grandparent or other family member? Unfortunately, once someone gets in the door and has “standing” to sue for custody, the Texas Family Code does not provide any statutory protections for fit parents beyond a presumption in original suits that a parent should be appointed as the managing conservator over a non-parent.
The Texas Family Code might not protect fit parents, but the United States Constitution does. The United States Supreme Court held in the landmark case of Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000), that the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment protects the rights of a fit parent to parent as he or she sees fit, without government interference. The U.S. Supreme Court specifically found that “[t]he Due Process Clause does not permit a State to infringe on the fundamental right of parents to make child rearing decisions simply because a state judge believes a ‘better’ decision could be made.”
The Draper Law Firm currently represents the father (“Relator”) in a mandamus proceeding currently pending before the Texas Supreme Court (In re C.J.C., Texas Supreme Court Case No. 19-0694). We are arguing that the trial court judge abused her discretion and violated the father’s constitutional rights when she awarded rights and possession to a non-parent (the deceased mother’s fiance) over the fit father’s objections.
The case has garnered a lot of attention both within Texas and nationally, as six amicus curiae have filed briefs in support of our position. Five non-profit organizations – the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the Texas Home School Coalition, the Parental Rights Foundation, the Alliance Defending Freedom, and A Voice for Choice Advocacy – have filed amicus briefs arguing for the protection of parental rights and asking the Texas Supreme Court to grant our petition. Notably, the Texas Attorney General and the Texas Solicitor General filed an amicus brief on behalf of the State of Texas in support of our position. This kind of amicus support in a family law case is exceedingly rare, and it underscores the importance of the issues involved in this case.
The Texas Supreme Court has set the case for oral argument on March 24, 2020 at 9:00 a.m. Holly Draper will be arguing on behalf of the father, seeking to have the Texas Supreme Court render an opinion that would protect the rights of all fit parents in Texas. Both the State of Texas and the Texas Public Policy Foundation have filed motions requesting to participate in oral argument. If you are interested in learning more about the case, all of the briefs and filings can be found here. The Texas Supreme Court live streams all oral arguments. The site for viewing live oral arguments or searching for past oral arguments can be found here.