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Texas Supreme Court Finds that Parental Presumption Extends to Modification Suits

On June 26, 2020, the Supreme Court of Texas issued a ruling that is sure to have a major impact on future non-parent custody cases in the state of Texas. In the case of In re C.J.C., the Supreme Court of Texas found that the presumption that it is in the best interest of a child to award possession to a fit parent versus a non-parent extends to modification cases.[1] This decision is certain to be seen as a major win for parents, as the Court reinforced the long-held notion that in most cases, a parent having custody of their child is best for the child.

The case involved grandparents of the child and the boyfriend of the child’s deceased mother attempting to modify the possession of the child and gain at least some court-ordered possession from the child’s father. The trial court found that the boyfriend was entitled to some possession and even some rights, such as the right to consent to emergency medical decisions.[2] The child’s father appealed this decision.

The Supreme Court based its reasoning largely around the Supreme Court of the United States opinion rendered in Troxel v. Granville.[3] In Troxel, the Court’s majority had ruled that it was a fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding care, custody, and control of their children, protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.[4] The Texas Supreme Court also stated that the Texas Legislature had affirmed this parental presumption even years before the Troxel decision. As a result, the Court points out that the presumption that it is in the best interest of a child to be in the custody of a parent is reinforced by both the United States Constitution and Texas law.

Despite arguing for possession of the child, the boyfriend did not allege the father was unfit, nor did the child’s therapist, who also testified.[5] Additionally, the father had made no effort to keep the child from visiting her grandparents. All opposing parties even admitted that the child’s father was active in her life.[6] Neither the grandparents nor the boyfriend could show that the father’s custody of the child would “significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development”.[7] Thus, the Court found that the presumption in favor of parents applied in this case, even though the case was a modification of a previous custody order. The impact of this case will certainly redefine how courts and lawyers approach this issue in the years ahead.

If you or a loved one are seeking to modify a child custody order, contact a Texas child custody lawyer of McClure Law Group at 214-692-8200.

[1] In re C.J.C., Relator, No. 19-0694 (Tex. June 26, 2020).

[2] Id. at 6.

[3] Id. at 9.

[4] Id.

[5] Id. at 12-14.

[6] Id.

[7] Id. at 16.

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