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What’s the right of a ‘fit parent’ in Texas to custody?

Posted on in Child Custody

Imagine this: You and your ex have a child together. Your relationship with your ex remains amicable despite the breakup because you both care deeply about your child. Eventually, your ex moves on and gets into another relationship. It turns serious — but then your ex is killed in a tragic accident. Suddenly, your ex’s new love interest is suing you for custody of your child — and a judge gives it to them.

Sounds insane, right? Well, that’s exactly what happened to one Texas father after his ex — the mother of his child — died in a car wreck. Her fiance, who had lived with the mother and child for a while, asked the court for partial custody of the little girl over the objections of the biological father and his new wife. The lower court granted the fiance’s petition — ultimately forcing the child’s father to take the case all the way to the state’s Supreme Court.

In what has been called “the most significant parent rights case in Texas history,” the Supreme Court said that the trial court relied on the “best interests of the child standard” when it made its decision. That’s standard in all custody cases. However, the higher court ruled that the trial judge, in essence, substituted the court’s opinion about what was best for the little girl in place of what the child’s own father believed was best for the little girl.

That was an incorrect approach, according to the Supreme Court’s ruling, because the child’s parent — who is presumed to be fit until there’s evidence to the contrary — is the person who enjoys the right to determine their child’s best interests.

Custody battles, as this case illustrates, aren’t always between two biological parents. When someone else is involved, things can get very complicated, very fast. Make sure that you obtain clear legal guidance about your case as soon as possible.

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