One of the things that we do at Boudreaux | Hunter & Associates, L.L.C., is take great care to stay current on the law. For that reason, we read important court decisions such as a recent one called In re C.D.C. In that case, the Texas Supreme Court denied a deceased mother’s boyfriend custody of a little girl after her mother passed away. The child’s father had objected to court-ordered custody and visitation with the boyfriend. The Texas Supreme Court upheld the father’s decision.
The founders of Boudreaux | Hunter & Associates, L.L.C., are Shannon Boudreaux and Kevin Hunter. Ms. Boudreaux and Mr. Hunter have assembled a team of experienced child custody lawyers. Ms. Boudreaux has been practicing law for nearly twenty years and has earned a perfect score from Avvo, an attorney rating service. Mr. Hunter, like his partner Ms. Boudreaux, is a graduate of South Texas College of Law. Mr. Hunter enrolled in law school after serving as a firefighter in the United States Air Force.
The “Fit Parent” Law
Most people would agree that the government has no business interfering in the relationship between a parent and a child so long as the parent is a fit parent. In 1995, the Texas Legislature codified this principle when it said that the parents of a child must be appointed conservators of the child unless that appointment would not be in the child’s best interest.
A few years later, the United States Supreme Court considered what rights paternal grandparents had to force visitation with grandchildren. In that case, the child’s father had died, and the mother did not want to give the grandparents as much visitation as they wanted. The Court came down squarely on the side of the mother, holding that as the surviving parent she had the fundamental right “to direct the upbringing and education” of her children. Parents are presumed to be fit, said the Court. Only when they are not can the government get involved.
The boyfriend case is factually close to the United States Supreme Court case. The father and the mother lived together from 2011 until 2016 but never married. They had a little girl together, in 2014. By 2017, the mother became involved with another man, the boyfriend.
A court appointed the parents joint custodians of the child and the mother and her mother moved in with the boyfriend that same year. In 2018, the mother filed a petition with the court to increase child support and to change the visitation schedule for the little girl. Before that case came on for hearing, the mother was killed in an automobile accident. The little girl was only three years old. Upon her mother’s death, the child moved in with her father.
After the mother died, the boyfriend, together with the maternal grandparents, asked the court to become part of the pending lawsuit. Both the boyfriend and the grandparents wanted an order granting them visitation with the child. The father had no problem with the grandparents and even the boyfriend visiting with the child, but he did not want a court order requiring it.
The trial court dismissed the grandparents from the case because they did not prove that keeping the child with her father would significantly impair her physical health or emotional development. But the court signed temporary orders that not only gave the boyfriend visitation but also many rights of custody.
The Texas Supreme Court Rules
The Texas Supreme Court issued an order dissolving the trial court’s temporary order because the father was presumed to be a fit parent and there was no evidence that he was unfit. Therefore, he had the sole authority to make decisions about the upbringing of his daughter. The court said that:
…when nonparents seek court-ordered custody of a child subject to an existing order, under which one or both fit parents were appointed managing conservators, that parent or parents retain the presumption that protects their fundamental right to determine their child’s best interest.
Takeaways from the Case
Under Texas law, and United States Supreme Court law, a fit parent is presumed to act in a child’s best interest and in this case it involved a father’s rights. Anyone who claims that the parent is not fit must prove that claim with evidence. Only then can a third party attempt to have custody or visitation with a child. Should you or a loved one become involved in a child custody case in which non-parents are parties, our experienced attorneys are ready to help with any family law matter. Please call (713) 333-4430 or visit us online to set up a consultation.