In Texas, most courts will order a geographic restriction as part of any child custody proceeding.  One parent is often awarded the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence.  A geographic restriction limits the child’s primary residence to a designated area. In cases where neither parent is given the right to designate the primary residence, the geographic restriction limits where both parents can live with the child.

Why do we have Geographic Restrictions?

The public policy of the State of Texas is to assure that children have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interest of the child.  Courts should encourage parents to share in the rights and duties of raising their child after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage.

A geographic restriction prevents custodial parents from moving the child outside a particular area without agreement from the noncustodial parent or a court order.  In some cases, neither parent is awarded the right to designate the primary residence, and the parties need guidance on where the child will live.  A geographic restriction will provide parents with that guidance.

How big is the Geographically Restricted Area?

Each court handles geographic restrictions slightly differently, and the size of the geographic restriction varies.  In Collin County, judges will often order restrictions that read, “Collin County and counties contiguous to Collin County.”  A restriction worded that way would allow the custodial parent to move the child’s primary residence anywhere within Collin County or a county contiguous to Collin County, but not outside of that area.  Sometimes judges will restrict the residence to only the county.

If you go to court, you may not have as much flexibility in determining your specific geographic restriction.  We encourage parties to work together to negotiate geographic restrictions that will fit their unique needs.  You should work with your attorney to find a geographic restriction that works for you.  Do not feel bound by broad county restrictions.  If you are negotiating a settlement, you can tailor a geographic restriction based on a specific intersection, school districts, or other landmarks. You can use city boundaries, a radius based on a specific point, or boundaries drawn on a map.

Keep in mind that your possession schedule will also impact your geographic restriction.  A 50/50 possession schedule will require a much narrower geographic restriction because it is in the child’s best interest to limit long drive times.  Even with an expanded standard possession order, the further apart the parents live, the harder it is on everyone for exchanges.  You should consider how long it will take for the child to get to school or daycare, extracurricular activities, and how far apart the parents’ residences will be.

Is my Geographic Restriction permanent? 

Yes and No.  The geographic restriction is in effect until one the following: 1) written agreement between the parents or 2) court order.  If a parent wishes to move the child outside the geographically restricted area, he or she will have to get permission from the other parent in writing.

If the parties cannot agree, the parent wishing to move the child will have to file to modify the order that includes the geographic restriction.  The likelihood of winning a modification will depend on the facts of your situation.  Several factors affect whether a court will order a modification of the restriction, including:

  • whether the move is in the best of the child;
  • the involvement of the parent opposing the move;
  • reason for the move;
  • comparison of education, health, and extracurricular opportunities;
  • special needs or talents of the child;
  • effect on extended family relationships;
  • effect on possession and access with the noncustodial parent; and
  • whether the noncustodial parent has the ability to relocate.

Can I move without a court order or agreement?

No.  If you move the child without agreement from the other parent or a court order allowing you to do so, you may violate your orders.  Your violation could serve as grounds for the other parent to modify custody.  You could face contempt of court, resulting in court-ordered punishments of fines or jail time.  Additionally, the other parent could file a petition to return the child.

Can I move if the other parent moves?

Maybe, but it depends on how your court order is worded.  Many geographic restrictions are worded such that the restriction only applies if the non-custodial parent resides within that zone, but that is not always the case.  If the other parent moves out of the permitted zone and your order allows for it, you can move outside of the zone.  If the other parent has not moved too far, be prepared for that parent to file to modify in an effort to keep you close.

If you are considering moving outside of the area designated in your order, be sure to consult an attorney to find out your options before committing to the move.  The last thing you want to do is have money invested in a move only to find out the court will not allow your child to move there.

Blog post by Samantha Mori

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Many families find themselves faced with the challenges of separation and divorce. Divorce can be a very stressful time in someone’s life. It is often said to be one of the most difficult transitions a person may face. One way to lessen the stress of the divorce process is for you and your spouse to divorce amicably. Here are five tips to assist anyone who may be interested in proceeding through the divorce process in an amicable manner:

  1. Find an attorney that understands your goal of an amicable divorce. Selecting your counsel is one of the most important decisions you will make during the divorce process. If you would like to minimize the contention during your case, you must ensure you hire an attorney who understands your goals and is capable of keeping your desire for an amicable resolution at the forefront of the process.
  1. Utilize a waiver of service. A waiver of service is a document that can be signed by your spouse after receiving a copy of the Original Petition for Divorce. If the waiver of service is properly executed, you will not have to have your spouse personally served with the petition. No one wants to be personally served. Many individuals going through divorce are served with papers at their place of work or home. This can be embarrassing and will likely make them angry. If your goal is an amicable divorce, it is usually preferable to begin by providing your spouse with a waiver of service to sign. If they refuse to sign the waiver of service, your attorney can then have your spouse personally served.
  1. Go to mediation. Many people are adamant they do not want their case to go to mediation. The general negative feeling towards mediation is often unwarranted. Most courts now require parties to attend mediation prior to the case proceeding to trial. This is because many cases can be resolved by utilizing an impartial third party to help the parties reach a resolution. Settling in mediation will save both sides money and lessen the stress that accompanies trial. In most cases, mediation leads to a better resolution for both sides. This is because mediation allows the parties and attorneys to be creative when creating a solution. When attending mediation be sure you go into the process with an open mind and a positive attitude. If you decide the process will fail before you even begin, the process is more likely to fail. Try to keep the focus on your goals and reaching a resolution both you and your spouse can live with. Remember, no settlement agreement is ever perfect for either side, but it is usually better than what the outcome would be at trial.  Even though it may be tempting, it is not a good idea to go to mediation without an attorney.  The mediator’s job is to get a deal done, and she cannot give you legal advice.
  1. Consider seeing a therapist. The end of a marriage is a very emotional transition for everyone involved. It affects the parties and the children. It is important to be aware of your emotional state and to recognize when you may need the assistance of a therapist or counselor. Many individuals need to be able to speak to someone such as a counselor or therapist to help them through this transition. Dealing with your emotions in a healthy way will assist you in keeping the divorce process amicable and preventing resentment. Divorces surrounded by resentment and anger tend to take longer to resolve and are ultimately more costly for both parties.
  1. Focus on the future. Remember that this is a time of transition. You are transitioning out of your marriage and into the next phase of your life. Focusing on the future is even more important to those who have children. If children are involved, you will continue to have a relationship with your spouse even after the divorce is finalized. There is no better time than the present to begin practicing communicating with the other parent. Even if you and your spouse were not ultimately successful long-term partners, you can still be successful co-parents. Parents who divorce amicably are typically better equipped down the road to resolve parenting disputes without the court intervening. Rather than getting hung up on the minutia, focus on your overall goals. If you hire an attorney who understands your goals, your attorney will be able to assist you with staying focused on what is most important.

Take the time to discuss these points when consulting with an attorney. At The Draper Law Firm, we understand this is a difficult time for you and your family and we are ready to help guide you through the process.

Blog post by Sarah Marrone

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Depending on the circumstances of your divorce or family law case, you may hear the Latin terms “amicus” and “ad litem” referenced by the attorneys or the judge in your case. We’re here to help clarify the purpose of an amicus attorney and an ad litem and explain when it would be beneficial to have either one appointed to your case.

The word “amicus” means “friend of the court.” When an amicus attorney is appointed in your case, it is important to know that the amicus does not represent any of the parties or children involved in the case. Rather, the purpose of an amicus is to gather information and help the court determine what is in the best interest of the child. The amicus will not only interview the parties and the children involved but will likely gather information from any other individuals that have valuable or relevant information. This can include teachers, counselors, doctors or other family members that are not parties to the case. This process allows the amicus to gather a significant amount of information, which can include evidence that may not be admissible in a hearing. Requesting that an amicus be appointed in your case is beneficial when the case is very contentious or involves a question of whether a party may be causing significant impairment or harm to a child.

“Ad litem” means “to represent in litigation.”  There are two types of ad litems we see in family law cases: an attorney ad litem and a guardian ad litem.  Unlike an amicus attorney, an attorney ad litem is appointed to represent the interests of a party.  In Texas, a Court may appoint an attorney ad litem when a party is not capable of representing himself or when a party has been served by publication.  An attorney ad litem is sometimes appointed to represent the child and advocate for what the child wants.  In cases involving CPS, the Court will always appoint an attorney ad litem in order to ensure that the child’s interests are protected.  A guardian ad litem may or may not be an attorney and is appointed to represent the best interests of a child.  Occasionally, a court will appoint an attorney in the dual role if attorney ad litem and guardian ad litem for a child.  In the event there is a conflict between what the child wants and what is in the child’s best interest, both need to be appointed.  CASA often serves as the guardian ad litem for the child in CPS cases in certain counties.

If your custody matter is complex, an amicus attorney or an ad litem may be an important tool to protect the child’s interests. Contact the attorneys at The Draper Law Firm, P.C. We’re ready to help.

Blog post by Shmyla Alam

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Digital assets are a huge part of our everyday lives.  The pictures on your iPhone, your Netflix account, documents saved in Dropbox, your Kindle library, and your Instagram page are all examples of digital assets.

While it may seem that digital assets are inconsequential when it comes to a divorce, that may not always be the case.  Technology has become such a significant part of our daily lives that digital assets may have significant monetary value beyond just the sentimental value.

A digital asset is intangible content that is stored in various types of digital formats.  Examples of common digital assets include: e-mail addresses, social media accounts, web sites and domain names, digital media (photos, videos, e-books, movies, and videos), blogs, reward points, data storage accounts (Dropbox, OneDrive), digital storefronts, and virtual currency (such as Bitcoin).

If these digital assets were acquired during the marriage, they will be considered part of the community estate and will be subject to a just and right division by the court.  When going through a divorce, each party should take an inventory of all digital assets that are considered community property.  If a digital asset was acquired prior to marriage, was a gift, or was inherited, it will be considered separate property and not subject to division in the divorce.

Once the digital assets have been identified as part of the community estate, they will be valued.  Valuing these assets is highly case dependent and will often require negotiation between the parties.  For example, a party’s personal social media page may have no monetary value.  However, if a couple has a social media page or website that generates revenue (such as a blog or Instagram account), the parties will want to give it a monetary value and determine who will be awarded the account.  There will certainly be some digital assets that have no value and you should focus on those digital assets that are most important.

When the parties divide the digital assets, the final decree should include language that allows the party who has been awarded the account the ability to change the password.  Additionally, the decree should include language that the party who is awarded the account is responsible for any fees associated with the account.  For example, if one party is awarded a domain name, that party will be required to pay the fees associated with the domain moving forward.

Some digital assets can be “shared,” which a great way to avoid conflict during divorce.  In many cases, digital assets can be copied and re-created so that both parties can have family photos or videos.  In some instances, digital libraries can be copied, but you cannot violate licensing agreements.

It may be a pain to divide these digital assets, but it should be dealt with during the divorce proceedings, particularly any income-generating assets or virtual currencies.  You do not want to deal with this after your divorce has been finalized.

You should not change passwords or block access to a digital asset until you have agreements with your spouse or a court order allowing you to do so.  Preemptively removing a spouse’s access can create bigger problems for you in the long run and in many instances would be a violation of the county’s standing orders.

When going through a divorce, take the time to discuss your digital assets with your attorney.  These are as important as ever and the attorneys at The Draper Law Firm are ready to help.

Blog Post by Samantha Mori, Associate Attorney

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Today the Texas Supreme Court issued its opinion in the landmark child custody case In re C.J.C.  Holly Draper served as lead counsel for the father, with Brad LaMorgese of Orsinger, Nelson, Downing and Anderson serving as co-counsel.  The case began back in 2018 when the child’s mother was tragically killed in a car accident.  The child was three at the time.  Both the maternal grandparents and the mother’s fiance sued for joint custody with the father.  The Court of Appeals ruled the grandparents did not have a right to sue for custody because they could not prove the father was unfit, and the grandparents were dismissed from the suit.  Texas law did not include a similar requirement that the fiance prove the father was unfit, so he was allowed to remain in the case.  A Denton County judge then gave the fiance rights and possession time with the little girl over the father’s objections.  We sought relief from the Texas Supreme Court, arguing that the trial judge violated the fit father’s constitutional rights when she gave rights and possession to a non-parent.

The case has garnered national attention, with nine different organizations filing amicus briefs into the case in support of our position.  The State of Texas and the Texas Public Policy Foundation participated with Holly Draper in oral arguments in support of the father.  Oral arguments were held via zoom on April 22 after COVID-19 delayed the original argument date.

The Court’s ruling today is a huge victory for parents in Texas.  Eight justices joined the majority opinion, with Justice Lehrmann issuing a concurring opinion.  The majority opinion found this case to be very similar to the landmark United States Supreme Case of Troxel v. Granville and rejected the opposing party’s position that the fit parent presumption should not apply because this case involved a modification.  The Court held that “we read any best-interest determination in which the court weighs a fit parent’s rights against a claim to conservatorship or access by a nonparent to include a presumption that a fit parent acts in his or her child’s best interests.”  The Court also clearly found the father to be fit in this case.  You can read the entire opinion here.

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Today we are discussing some basic “Dos” and “Don’ts” to help you with some legal issues that may arise during and as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Check out the links for more information and resources.

DOs:

  • DO plan for your future with a will, living, will, statutory durable power of attorney, and medical power of attorney.
    • Every adult should have these four documents to ensure that (1) your assets pass according to your wishes; (2) you choose the end-of-life medical treatment that you want; and (3) you decide who will make medical and financial decisions for you in the event you are unable to make them for yourself.
    • Many attorneys, including the attorneys at The Draper Law Firm, are working hard to continue to provide these services to clients throughout the state. Due to the coronavirus, many attorneys are not providing in-person execution of these packages, but there are options to have these executed.  We are actively monitoring possible changes in the law that would allow for virtual signings.
  • DO continue paying your child support obligation.
  • DO follow your court ordered possession and access schedule.
  • DO co-parent to do what is in the best interest of your child.
    • Nothing about the current circumstances is normal. We encourage you to communicate and work with your co-parent to find creative and agreeable solutions to problems that may arise during this time.
  • DO reach out to resources that can help if you are struggling.

DON’Ts

  • DON’T ignore shelter-in-place orders.
    • Most counties in the state have issued shelter-in-place or other orders restricting movement. Only essential businesses remain open.  If you are required to go out, you should follow the CDC recommendations to protect yourself.
    • Remember, exchange of children according to a possession and access schedule is considered essential, but please be smart about this and do what is needed to keep your children and community safe.
    • Collin County Order, Dallas County Order, Denton County Order
  • DON’T participate in unnecessary travel.
    • Much like ignoring the shelter-in-place orders, traveling unnecessarily exposes you, your children, and others that you interact with to the virus.
  • DON’T assume the courts are closed.
    • If you have legal concerns, remember that attorneys are still operating to meet the needs of their clients. Courts are holding virtual hearings for most matters and the legal community is working together to find creative solutions to issues that may arise.
  • DON’T assume you are entitled to 100% percent of a stimulus check.
    • The government recently passed legislation that will entitle many adults to stimulus checks for themselves and their dependents.  If you are married, this money is community property and is subject to division in a divorce.  If you have questions or concerns about what effect your recent or pending divorce will have on a stimulus check, you should reach out to your attorney.
    • While back-owed taxes and defaulted student loan payments will not prevent payment, a stimulus check can be seized for past-due child support.
  • DON’T be afraid to reach out to your attorney.
    • Your attorney is there to answer case specific questions that may arise as a result of COVID-19.  Please keep in mind that this is uncharted territory for all of us, and sometimes the only correct answer is that we don’t know.

Blog post by Samantha Mori.

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Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many people losing jobs or seeing a reduction in pay.  For someone who is court-ordered to pay child support, this can trigger the need to modify.  First and foremost, losing your job or having a decrease in pay does not mean that your child support obligation automatically changes or goes away.  It is critical to act quickly to modify your child support obligation unless you are in a financial position to continue paying the same amount.

In order to modify your child support obligation, you must obtain an order from the court.  If the other parent will agree to the change, you can get an agreed modification done very quickly through an attorney.  If the other parent will not agree, you will need to prove that your job loss or reduction in pay constitutes a “material and substantial change” sufficient to modify child support.  Determining what is a “material and substantial” change is a fact-intensive inquiry and decided on a case-by-case basis.  In general, any change in income caused by a lost job or decrease in pay that would change the child support calculation by more than $100 is considered to be a material and substantial change for purposes of a child support modification.

What should I do if I have lost my job or had my pay reduced?

If you have lost your job or had your pay reduced, you have two options for pursuing a modification of your child support payments. You can either hire a private attorney or you can request a modification through the Texas Attorney General.  A private attorney will charge you but is generally much quicker.  The Attorney General is free, but the process can take several months once a request is made.  If your child support obligation will be reduced significantly, it is usually worth the cost of a private attorney to make that change happen quickly.  You should start the process as soon as possible because job loss or a reduction in pay will not stop or “pause” payments.  You will not be able to retroactively reduce your child support obligation, so you want to initiate the modification as soon as possible.  Do not stop making payments if at all possible.  If you do, arrearages will begin to accrue and you will not be able to reduce those arrearages with a modification.  You will be responsible for paying the full amount owed plus interest, as you can only modify going forward.

What does the process look like?

If the other parent will agree, the quickest way to have your child support modified is to have an attorney file a petition to modify and an agreed order modifying child support.  If the other parent will not agree, your lawyer will file a petition to modify child support or the Office of the Attorney General will conduct a review of the child support order.  It is your responsibility to show the material and substantial change in circumstances.  The court will consider your past employment, ability to work and earn an income, and current federal minimum wage when considering whether to grant a modification and in what amount.  After a hearing, the court will determine if a modification is appropriate and, if so, how much the new child support obligation should be.

Are courts operating right now?

Yes.  COVID-19 has changed the way courts are functioning, but the courts are still functioning and cases continue to move forward.  Only “essential” matters are being heard in person, but non-essential hearings are taking place virtually via Zoom.  This means that your attorney can still file a suit for modification and request a hearing to have the order modified during this crisis.

Child Support

(Blog post by Samantha Mori and Holly Draper)

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The outbreak of COVID-19 has had a significant impact on most people’s day-to-day lives.  Businesses shut down, schools closed, and people are uncertain in many areas of their lives.  Many counties (including Collin, Dallas, Denton, and Tarrant) have issued “shelter-in-place” or “stay-at-home” orders that restrict leaving home to essential activities only.  School closures and various (sometimes conflicting) shelter-in-place orders have left parents concerned about how this will affect possession and access schedules.

The Texas Supreme Court recently issued guidance on this topic.  On March 24, 2020, the Court issued its Seventh Emergency Order Regarding the Covid-19 State of Disaster.  The Court ordered “for purposes of determining a person’s right to possession of and access to a child under a court-ordered possession schedule, the existing trial court order shall control in all instances.  Possession of and access to a child shall not be affected by any shelter-in-place order or other order restricting movement issued by a government entity that arises from an epidemic or pandemic, including what is commonly referred to as the COVID-19 pandemic.”

What does this mean for parents? 

The Supreme Court has ordered that parents must continue to follow the possession and access schedule as ordered by their court.  This means that possession and access to a child are not affected by any shelter-in-place that your city or county has issued.  In fact, many shelter-in-place orders explicitly state that traveling to exchange the children is not a violation of the orders.

What if you believe your child is at risk by going to the other parent?

The Texas Supreme Court has thus far not issued exceptions that would permit a parent to withhold a child on the basis that the child is at risk of exposure to coronavirus.  We strongly recommend working with your co-parent to do what is in the best interest of your child under the circumstances.  Absent an agreement between the parents, the court ordered possession and access schedule is still in effect.  Although we expect courts to be lenient when a parent is reasonable in taking certain actions to keep a child safe, a party who does not follow the court-ordered schedule could be subject to court action, such as contempt of court.  If you have concerns about this issue, you should reach out to a family law attorney familiar with your court, as this situation will be case and fact specific.

What if schools stay closed?

Texas courts have given a great deal of guidance about how school closures impact child custody schedules, which are usually based on school schedules.  After several counties put out orders related to school closures, the Texas Supreme Court did the same.  In short, parents need to follow the originally published school calendar for possession and access unless they agree otherwise.  You can find the full text of the Texas Supreme Court’s order on possession during school closures here.

But aren’t the courts shut down?

The district courts in Texas are operating differently due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they are still operating.  Many hearings are now conducted virtually via zoom.  Only hearings on essential matters can happen in person, but even those hearings can be conducted virtually by agreement.  Clerks are still processing filings and the court systems are still functioning and moving cases forward.  Many attorneys (including those in our firm) are working virtually and continuing to file cases and move cases forward on behalf of family law clients.

This is a constantly changing situation, and new orders have come out regularly from various state and local courts over the past few weeks.  For those in Collin County, Judge Emily Miskel of the 470th Judicial District Court is trying to keep up-to-date emergency orders posted here.  The Collin County District Courts Facebook page regularly posts updates with helpful information as well.

(Blog post by Samantha Mori and Holly Draper)

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The Draper Law Firm has been largely virtual since 2008.  With many lawyers forced to go virtual due to the coronavirus situation, here a few helpful resources for making the transition:

Phone System – Having a VoIP based phone system is extremely helpful when you are virtual.  It allows people to use their office number from anywhere via a desktop or mobile app without ever having to give out a personal cell phone number.  Our firm uses Ring Central.  Grasshopper is another example, but a search for “VoIP for business” will give you a lot of good options.

Answering Services – Having a backup answering service can be very helpful when everyone is working from home, especially since many people are now also managing their children’s schooling from home at the same time.  Our firm uses Lex Reception, but other options include Ruby Receptionist, Answering Legal and Smith.AI.  During business hours, our phone system will ring to our legal assistant first, but if she is unable to answer for whatever reason, it will switch over to the answering service.

Video Conferencing – Don’t you wish you had bought stock in Zoom a month ago?  Video conferencing is extremely important during a time when we cannot have much face-to-face interaction.  Ring Central includes a video meeting component powered by Zoom.  Zoom offers a free option, but it limits the length of meeting time.  GoToMeeting, Skype and FaceTime are other options.  FaceTime requires each person have an apple device, so I do not think that is the best option for office use.

Cloud-Based Storage –  This is critical to operating virtually, as it allows everyone in your office to access and work on the same documents without e-mailing things back and forth.  We use DropBox for business, which is secure and HIPAA compliant.  Other options include ShareFile.com, Egnyte.com, Box.com, Clinked.com, and Google Drive.  Texas Ethics Opinion 680 provides that a lawyer may use a cloud-based electronic data storage system to store client confidential information, but lawyers must take reasonable precautions related to data breaches, unauthorized access, and the disclosure of confidential information.

E-Signing Software-  Use software that allows people to sign documents electronically  such as Adobe Acrobat Pro or DocuSign.  We send out forms through Clio Grow, which allows clients to fill out questionnaires and sign fee agreements electronically.

Practice Management Programs – Our firm uses Clio Manage for practice management.  It allows for time keeping, billing, calendars, reporting, task management, and has greatly streamlined the case management process for our firm.  Other examples of practice management programs or task management programs are MyCase, Practice Panther, and RocketMatter, Monday.com, Dubsado, Padio, Trello, Asana, and Smokeball.

Office Essentials – Every person in the firm should have their own laptop and printer / scanner / copier.  When you are largely paperless, you don’t need the huge copier systems that many firms have at the office.  An at-home all-in-one printer for less than $200 will be perfectly sufficient.  It is important to either have a good shredder or have a lockable box for storing to-be-shredded documents.  Once it is full, have a shredding company come shred it.

If you have other resources you think would be helpful, feel free to share them with us using the Contact form and we will update accordingly!

 

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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.

 

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