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Grandparent Tries to Intervene in SAPCR Case in Texas

grandparentsThere is a strong presumption that a child’s best interest is served when a natural parent is awarded custody in Texas. This presumption puts a heavy burden on someone who is not a parent who wants conservatorship of a child. The non-parent will have to prove to the court that appointing a parent as managing conservator would harm the child’s physical or emotional wellbeing.

Under Texas Family Code §102.003, there are 14 different categories to which someone may belong in order to bring a SAPCR (Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship). A child or parent has the right to file a case. Moreover, so do certain other people who care for a child for a minimum of six months, as long as the six-month period ends less than 90 days before the date they file a petition.

In Re HF is a recent Texas appellate proceeding involving a grandmother’s plea in intervention in a lawsuit that affected the parent-child relationship. The case arose when the Attorney General brought a SAPCR proceeding to establish conservatorship over a mother and father’s child. The judge signed an agreed order, and the father appealed it. On the same day, the child’s grandmother petitioned to intervene in the SAPCR proceeding.

The mother asked the court to strike the grandmother’s plea and dismiss the father’s appeal. The mother and grandmother disagreed about whether the order had become final so that the SAPCR wasn’t pending any longer. The trial court found it wasn’t a final order and gave the grandmother the right to intervene.

The mother asked the appellate court to vacate the lower court’s order denying her motion to strike the grandmother’s request to intervene. The grandmother wrote to the court and told it that she didn’t want to oppose the writ of mandamus request. The court reviewed the mother’s request without receiving an opposition.

It explained that a trial court possesses the discretion to permit a grandparent whom the court decides had substantial past contact with a child the right to intervene in a pending SAPCR when there is appropriate proof that appointing a parent to be sole managing conservator would harm the child’s physical health or emotional development under Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 102.004(b). The mother in this case argued that there was an abuse of discretion because there was no pending SAPCR in which to intervene.

The appellate court explained that a Title IV-D associate judge is empowered to recommend to a referring court a trial on the merits. In this case, the father’s request for a hearing was defective because it didn’t specify the issues he planned to present, as required by statute. The trial court’s power over the issue expired. The grandmother filed a petition to intervene but didn’t become a party to the SAPCR by so doing. Under Texas Family Code section 102.004(b), courts are required to grant leave to intervene before a grandparent is permitted to do so. In this case, the trial court didn’t give her permission to intervene before the date on which the SAPCR proceeding stopped being pending. Accordingly, the appellate court sustained the mother’s issue and conditionally granted the writ.

If your divorce involves matters related to child custody and parental rights, contact the Texas attorneys at the McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200.

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