North Carolina and Restoring Parental Rights in Texas

The Internet is awash with reaction against a judge in North Carolina who acknowledged in a custody case that the children had done very well academically in their home school, but he ruled that they must be placed in public school to “test” their biblical beliefs.

This is very similar to the number of home school families in Texas who have been challenged in court by grandparents who disagree with decisions that they have made for their children. Hundreds of such cases across the state have resulted in the kind of outrageous judicial actions as this one in North Carolina.

We have been writing about this situation for a couple of years now. HB 2084 by State Representative Phil King is the Texas Parental Rights Restoration Act (TPRRA) and will amend the grandparent access statute that is badly out of balance-and some believe unconstitutional.

Grandparents whose child in the marriage is divorced, deceased, or in jail may sue the fit, custodial parent for access or even possession without providing any evidence that the parent is abusive or neglectful. The grandparents, who most often have more financial resources than the parents, use the courts to bludgeon parents who have made for their children decisions with which they disagree, including home schooling and religious instruction. Hundreds of such cases across the state result in single-parent families being destroyed or brought to the brink of bankruptcy simply because the grandparents insist the parents acquiesce to their opinions or desires.

In the last three years the Texas Supreme Court has had one such case before it each year, and this year there are currently three before the court. In every case thus far, the court has ruled in favor of the parents-only to have those parents sued again under the same statute.

The TPRRA is designed to resolve these issues by amending the law to require the grandparents to prove the parents are unfit at an initial hearing and, failing that, to pay court costs and attorneys fees. The measure also increases the level of evidence required to be the same as that required in custody cases.

On March 5, 2009, Texas home schoolers participating in Capitol Days lobbied every Texas state legislator on this issue, and we received good response. The ACLU supports this measure, and it appears that many Republican and Democrat legislators alike see the need to restore the fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children in Texas.

Unfortunately the Family Law Foundation, the lobby of family law attorneys in Texas, is strongly opposed to this effort. A simple Google search will show the hundreds of attorneys who advertise to represent grandparents in such lawsuits. This represents a considerable revenue stream for many family law attorneys, and restoring balance to this area is not something they would agree to.

Support our effort to pass the TPRRA; please contact your state representative this week and ask them to co-sponsor or joint author the TPRRA (HB 2084). Ask your friends to contact them as well, and ask the staff of your state rep to let you know when he or she has taken the step of co-sponsoring HB 2084. Please let us know when your state representative has done so.

This legislative effort is the most important battle for parental rights since legal and political actions in the 1980s to clarify that home schooling was legal in Texas. Fit parents should not have to spend themselves into bankruptcy to defend their decisions that they believe are best for their children.

Comments

  1. Anonymous says

    Some grandparents, including this home schooling grandparent, simply want a safe, loving environment for their children and grandchildren. Please do not lump us all into one category in an effort to protect homeschooling rights. Often there are compelling reasons why grandparents are raising grandchildren which have nothing to do with the issue of home schooling. Please consider this before you pursue legislation that takes away a grandparent’s rights. I will fight for the right to home school my grandson!

  2. Anonymous says

    As Anonymous so eloquently stated, there are Grandparents, like myself, that are raising their grandchildren as well as homeschooling them. Grandparent’s rights to love and protect their grandchildren from abuse, neglect and harm should be the highest consideration above all else! I, too, will fight for the right to continue to homeschool my granddaughter

  3. Tim Lambert says

    This legislation does not impact custody cases at all. They are covered by another section of the family code. There are many grandparents who have taken grandchildren who have been abused, neglected or abandoned and we applaud and support these folks and vigorously defend their right to home school. HB 2084 deals with the section of the family code that allows grandparents to sue for access (visitation) and/or possession (which means you can have them for extended periods of time without being responsible for them) all because they disagree with a decision made by a fit parent regarding their children.

  4. Brandy Zajicek says

    I wanted to take a moment let you all know that Chelsea from Gary Elkins office contacted me this morning to let me know where Mr. Elkins stood on HB2084. She told me that he stated that because he has 3 beautiful granddaughters himself, and can not bear the thought of never getting to see them again, he will have to listen to both sides before he can decide whether he is for or against this bill. I then told her that as a home school mom of 3 I would hate to think about how easy it would be for any of the grandparents to take our children if something were to happen to me or my husband. She then went on to tell me this is why Mr. Elkins wants to hear both sides of the issue. I asked her how many calls she has received on either side of this bill and she told me that I was the first! Please, when you get a free minute, contact his office and ask that he joint author or, at least, endorse HB2084. Then ask that they get back with you on where Mr. Elkins stands on this bill so that we can forward this to Mr. Lambert per his request. Thank you all for your support!

  5. Tracy says

    I understand that grandparents want to see their grandkids, but the way to maintain that is by getting along with the kids. To assert that the grandparents have rights to kids who are not their own and drag the parents to court and go through their treasure to fight this is completely Unconstitutional. Parental rights are an inalienable right.

    There are circumstances in which a horrible parent may need to be investigated and lose custody, in that case the children would go to a relative, maybe a grandparent. You don’t need to law to get that.

    It is the special interests of groups, and including those of grandparents in this issue that continually undermine our rights.

    My MIL is a cruel and vile person. If my husband dies I would go to jail because I would not allow my MIL to ever see my kids. She hates me, she is not allowed to see my kids now because of her alcoholism and her false allegations about me and my kids to CPS. I have no doubt she will file a suit on me if my husband dies. She wants to see my kids, but has no desire to change her ways.

    I supported contact with the kids up until she started drinking heavily and called CPS on us. She just did that b/c we would not let her see the kids.

    This law for parental rights is unconstitutional. You grandparents have no rights to kids that aren’t your own. But I am not surprised by the entitlement culture, my mom and my MIL are of your generation. It’s my decision where my kids go and with whom they go. If my husband dies, it should still be entirely up to me.

    I will be a grandparent one day. At that point it is my responsibility not to be a wart so that my children will let me be involved in the grandkids’ lives.

    Parental rights are inalienable rights. It is a shame this has to be clarified.

    Homeschooling is not really the issue, but I do find that many grandparents do not like it when their kids homeschool the grandkids. My mom supports me and my MIL does not.

  6. timthsc says

    The bill has passed favorably out of the Human Services Committee and is currently in the Calendars Committee awaiting a floor vote.

  7. Anonymous says

    Everyone needs to check the national and state
    U.S. Census records to see how many grandparents are caring for their grandchildren. Many grandparents are in poverty, many are disabled, many are caring for their mentally ill children’s children. They are doing this because THEY HAVE TO–otherwise, the children would be left to the system. Many great-grandparents are doing the same thing. If this bill is passed, and grandparents can’t get access to rescue abused and neglected children, there is no way the foster care system can handle it. Think about it. Think about the children. It is hard enough now for grandparents to gain visitation and custody. Let’s not make it harder—-on the children.

  8. timthsc says

    Once again, we champion grandparents who rescue children from abusive and neglectful situations and this legislation will not affect them. This legislation is about protecting FIT parents, which by definition does not include those who abuse or neglect their children, from grandparents who sue for access and/or possession because of a disagreement over decisions the parents make for the child(ren).

  9. Anonymous says

    It really sounds like further commentators should read the context of the bill. Timthsc is correct. If there is abusive parents, there is separate legislation that takes care of that. This Bill takes care of abusive grandparents.

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