The Texas Supreme Court on Parental Rights

The Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of parents in another grandparent access case a couple of weeks ago. Like most of these cases, there was conflict between the parents and the grandparents about decisions the parent was making for what he considered best for his children.

In that opinion, the Court states, “Scheller (the parent) alleges the conflict began when he took the children to visit the Pembertons (the grandparents) in Crockett on Christmas Day, rather than Christmas Eve. The Pembertons blame the conflict, in part, on a decreased frequency of visits, which they attribute to Scheller’s relationship with Sylvia [Scheller’s new wife]. But Scheller claims the decreased visits were a result, in part, from the Pembertons admitted refusal to follow set conditions he laid out for his children’s visits, such as avoiding certain topics of conversation and adhering to a particular bedtime. Conflict over the time and manner of the Pembertons’ visits with the girls continued throughout 2009. Verbal confrontations about the girls arose on the telephone, in public, and at the Schellers’ home in Austin.”

The grandparents challenged the decisions made by a fit parent in what he considered best for his children, and because that resulted in less access to the grandchildren, they sued for access. The trial court gave them this access under “temporary” orders. This pattern is repeated in hundreds of cases all over the state of Texas and is the reason that the Texas legislature must pass the Texas Parental Rights Restoration Act (TPRRA) next year.

The Texas Supreme Court went on to state, “…a trial court cannot ‘infringe on the fundamental right of parents to make child rearing decisions simply because [it] believes a better decision could be made.’ Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 72–73 (2000) (plurality op.) (internal quotations omitted); see also In re Chambless, 257 S.W.3d 698, 700 (Tex. 2008) (per curiam) (‘Parents enjoy a fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children’ [quotation omitted]). We have held that ‘so long as a parent adequately cares for his or her children (i.e., is fit), there will normally be no reason for the State to inject itself into the private realm of the family.’ In re Derzapf, 219 S.W.3d 327, 333 (Tex. 2007) (per curiam) (quoting In re Mays-Hooper, 189 S.W.3d 777, 778 (Tex. 2006) (per curiam) (quoting Troxel, 530 U.S. at 68)).”

This citation refers to the 2000 U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding parental rights and Texas Supreme Court decisions on the same issue from 2006, 2007, and 2008. For every decision that reaches the Texas Supreme Court, there are scores in which parents do not have the resources or representation to protect their children in these kinds of cases; we must change the law to prevent these travesties!