Who has your child’s best interests most at heart, you or someone else?
If you automatically feel that you are the right person to decide what’s best for your child, the Texas courts will agree — thanks to a landmark ruling by the Texas Supreme Court back in June. The ruling, which reversed a lower court’s decision to grant a non-parent visitation rights to a child over her father’s objections, had been closely watched by family law attorneys throughout the state because it was poised to have a significant impact on parental rights.
The case involved a five-year-old girl whose mother died shortly after getting engaged to her live-in fiance. The fiance and child’s maternal grandparents sought joint custody of the child, which the child’s biological father opposed. While the grandparents’ case was dismissed, the court gave the fiance partial possession rights, or visitation.
In Texas, a non-relative who has lived in a child’s primary home for six months or longer has a legal right to fight for custody. Through his attorneys, the fiance argued that denying the visitation was tantamount to putting the rights of the parent ahead of the rights of the child. Since the interests of the child should always take precedence in a custody case, they argued, this was improper.
Not so, said the appellate court. In cases where there’s a dispute about what’s best for a child, any “fit parent” is presumed to be acting in their child’s best interests — even when that means denying visitation to a non-parent for whatever reason.
Custody issues are always complicated, no matter who is involved. If you are facing a child custody dispute here in Houston, don’t try to handle it on your own.