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Texas Court Considers Parent-Child Relationship After Possible Suicide Attempt

In the Interest of NFM is a recent Texas appellate case involving a lawsuit altering the parent-child relationship. The case arose when NFM was born in 2009. The mother and father were teens and lived with the father’s family during the mother’s pregnancy. After the baby was born, they moved out and lived together for a few months before breaking up. They created an informal agreement as to the child’s custody, rather than seeking the help of the court or getting a paternity order.

The mother later had a child with someone else. CPS became involved with the family, due to family violence, and the mother separated from that person, who completed a battering intervention and prevention program. The mother was later admitted to the hospital after ingesting up to 14 pills. A CPS caseworker concluded that the mother had tried to commit suicide. However, her doctor didn’t recommend that she get psychiatric treatment but only that she not mix liquor and pills.

The mother signed a CPS child safety and evaluation plan. This provided that both children would stay with the father, and the mother would have supervised visits. The mother complied with all of the orders. The father filed an action asking the court for sole managing conservatorship of the child. He asked that the mother’s visits be supervised.

The mother counter-petitioned, arguing that both she and the father should be appointed as joint managing conservators in the child’s best interest. The mother alleged that appointing both parents as joint managing conservators would be in the child’s best interest and asked that the father pay child support and medical bills.

The temporary orders designated the father as the temporary sole managing conservator. The mother’s access was limited to visitation supervised by the father’s mom. For two years, NFM’s contact with the mother was dramatically curtailed. The trial court appointed both the mother and the father as joint managing conservators and gave the mother certain exclusive rights. The father appealed.

The appellate court explained that of primary consideration was the best interest of the child under Texas Family Code § 153.002. The trial court had to presume that allowing both parents to parent would be in the child’s best interest. If the parents didn’t file an agreed parenting plan, the court would need to render an order appointing the parents as joint managing conservators only if the appointment was in the child’s best interest.

Factors to be considered when determining a child’s best interest include whether the child’s needs would be helped by appointing joint managing conservators, whether the parents would be able to give first priority to the child’s welfare, a parent’s encouragement and acceptance of a positive relationship between the child and the other parent, whether both parents were involved in raising the child before the action, how close together the parents live, the child’s preference if the child is age 12 or older, and other relevant factors.

The appellate court explained that based on the mother’s statements, the lower court had determined the father to be NFM’s father. It determined that the court had given full consideration to the witness testimony, including the mother’s compliance with CPS orders and her statement that she hadn’t intended to commit suicide. The lower court had considered all of the factors in determining the child’s best interest. The trial court’s judgment was affirmed.

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

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Johnny Depp, Amber Heard, and a Discussion on Family Violence Protective Orders and Temporary Restraining Orders in Texas, June 9, 2016

Divorce and Taxes – What to do if your ex-spouse botched your joint tax return, May 31, 2016