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!

Comments

  1. Anonymous says

    This world is getting ugly in regards to our children. It breaks my heart that children don't respect their parents and parents disrespect their grown children wishes.
    There are certain rights that grandparents should have. I can not imagine my grandparents being removed from my life. Sure, they allowed me to go past mom n dad's rules. However, I was at their house, much like baby sitters except I was loved, and they spoiled me.
    I liked being made over. I was from a big family where I learned to share. Grandparents allowed me to feel special and unique. That is something that is not instilled by working parents or baby sitters. I was safe with them and their minor rule breaking.
    The children are once again being used as a pawn to a battle that parents and grandparents wage on each other. That is wrong, so very wrong.
    I do not want anyone infringing on my rights as a parent. I do not want a stranger taking my child and telling me that my way of life is wrong. I do not want a court dictating to me what, where and who will be taking care of my child.
    The current attack on our children in the US should scare the socks off you all. Family is ALL you got now. If you can't trust them, your in more danger than you know!
    Respectfully

  2. Anonymous says

    Just so you know, because we would not allow homosexuals to marry…laws are being drafted to make it illegal to be married and all marriages null and void.
    Christianity is under attack. Federal Judge already declared it illegal. The fight is on. The fight is for your kids!

  3. Anonymous says

    Thanks for taking the time to examine this decision and comment on it.

    I would like to point out that this was only a partial victory, however. The Texas Supreme Court did strike down the portion of the temporary orders that awarded access and possession to the grandfather and ordered the trial judge to strike those orders. But it didn't throw out the case. In fact, it even says that as the case "develops" the access and possession orders might be reinstated if more evidence shows up.

    Further down in the ruling, the TX Supreme Court found that the appointment of an "expert" psychologist and (in a dual role) Guardian ad Litem _was_ constitutional, even though Pemberton (the grandfather) came into court with no hard evidence whatsoever that his grandchildren had suffered any harm of any kind!

    In other words, the court is saying that rich grandparents can file suit in an effort to start a court-ordered "fishing expedition" into the lives of their grandchildren and (by implication) the lives of their grandchildren's fit parents.

    The grandfather here is effectively using the power of the State of Texas to gather evidence against someone (the father) who is accused of nothing. A criminal defendant has the right to refuse to speak with the police, but a parent, apparently, can be forced to speak with a court-appointed agent of the government without any accusation of wrongdoing.

    This is just wrong.

  4. Anonymous says

    There is no way it is constitutional for grandparents or anyone else to infringe on the decision making of parents unless there is probable cause to believe in parental neglect, abuse, or overt child endangerment. If it is constitutional, then homeschoolers need to take note — because that means homeschooling is not a constitutionally protected right, but is a privilege granted homeschool families by the state … a privilege that can easily be withdrawn.

    The foregoing is just legal insight. Common sense is more important to most of us.

    Mere common sense teaches that if parents are not constitutionally protected from unjust interference (by grandparents or anyone else) then we need to ask if our right to worship is actually safe. (Do any of us disagree that religious freedom and the right to raise our children are in the same elevated category of "fundamental" rights? Would we not also agree that the right to raise our children is actually MORE important to most people than freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to assemble?)

    As the writer above concluded: "This is just wrong." He is 100% right. And that is not a legal conclusion. Rather, it is a conclusion based on self-evident morality. For if fit parents are not free to raise their children without unjustified state interference (and that is all grandparent access is: FORCED state intervention) … if parents are not free in this sense, then we must ask of what value are the rest of our "rights"? Of what value are our traditional liberties? Of what value is life itself (afterall, most of us would lay down our lives for our children)? This issue is life and death for the parents forced to fight it and it makes them think very clearly about what counts.

    From a common sense perspective what we dealing with here is social engineering. These days there are few things less tolerable to most Americans than a bunch of social engineers in Washngton DC trying to take care of us. So, why would we tolerate replacing Washington DC social engineers with local judicial social engineers? We should not tolerate it. No one — whether in Washington DC or the County Courthouse — belongs in the homes of fit parents, forcing their social engineering ideology on the parents.

    Grandparents who take fit parents to court are not "nice". They are not the cuddly teddy bears who warmed our winters with hot chocolate when we were kids. Grandparents who sue fit parents are abusers of our courts, abusers of the fundamental rights of parents, abusers of power, abusers of money, and in the very act of suing their grandchildren's parents they declare themselves to be suspect custodians of children. At a minimum, their judgment is awful.

    In the final analysis the question we have to face regarding this issue is never whether or not we might think that some other fit parent having grandparents forced into his/her private life is okay (since, we imagine, it would be nice for a child to have a nice set of grandparents around). The question is always: How would I, a fit parent, react if government FORCED me to share my God-given rights to make decisions about my child with grandparents?

    You know the answer.

    If that answer is right for you, it is right for all other fit parents — and by failing to help them when their rights are infringed you risk your own rights in turn.

    We need to face up to this problem honestly: it is everyone's problem and if we don't solve it for the people suffering through it today, it will only mutate into different ways for the state to interfere in your home tomorrow. The home is a private domain that cannot be breached without parental misconduct. We all need to pull together, draw the line here, and tell our leaders that our front doors are where government stops.

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