Kristen Fagala RIP

Kristen Fagala, a home school mom of seven and an inspiring home school leader, mentor and blogger died suddenly last Saturday in Baytown. I got to know Kristen and her blogging along with her friend and co-home school leader Denise Hyde some years ago at a THSC Leadership Training Conference. I was impressed with Kristen’s smile, wonderful caring Christian spirit, her desire to share her love for the Lord, and her zeal for home schooling.

In early June we asked for volunteers to help us in the THSC booth at the SETHSA Gulf Coast Home Education Conference in Houston. In her own enthusiastic and optimistic way, she showed up with her three-month-old baby and her other children. She just knew that her baby would sleep most of the time, and she wanted to help us and have an opportunity to talk to moms about home schooling. Her baby was good…but not that good. She left after a few hours, but that was Kristen–always willing to give of herself for others. We will miss her and her dazzling smile and look forward to seeing her again in Heaven.

Denise shared a blog of Kristen’s that I think is reflective of her and her love for the Lord and for her family and life as well. It is worth reading, and I hope you will take a look at it here.

Friends of Kristen may contribute to her Memorial Fund at www.lakewoodlight.org. Click on the “eGive” link. You will need to set up a one-time account. It is fast and simple. Towards the end, there is a place to specify where you want the funds to go.

Judicial Abuse in Fort Worth

Attorneys for the single, fit dad who is fighting to get his daughter back from grandparents filed a motion requesting that the court vacate its order from July 2008 that alleged they had not met the burden under the law to prove that the father’s living environment had endangered his daughter. The hearing was set for June 20. At that hearing the judge, who has a history of abusing fit parents in favor of grandparents, said that they had to specifically plead the requirements of 156.102 of the Texas Family Code and that their brief was not a “pleading” but a “brief.” The attorneys disagreed and argued that the requirements had been met, that they had put the grandparents on notice that the pleading was defective and that the father should be able to go forward with the hearing, and that if the judge stood by that ruling, the attorney would then request a trial amendment.

The father’s attorneys were simply asking to go back to the original order that named the fit father the Sole Managing Conservator. The grandparents’ attorney responded that they were only 60 days from trial so there was no need to modify or have a temporary order hearing, in spite of the fact that this fit father had been deprived of his daughter for almost three years. The father’s attorney advised the judge that at a minimum he should address the restriction placed on this fit father to have only weekly, supervised access to his daughter since even the social study that the court ordered reflected that he was a good father and supervised access was not warranted (not a specific statement but implied in the report stating that the father’s relationship with his daughter was positive and appropriate).

The judge then held that the father’s attorney would have to file new pleadings and give notice but that he did not have time before the August 15 trial date to hear it. Attorneys for the father again pointed out that they were scheduled three days for this hearing and if the judge disagreed with the pleading argument, he should then grant a trial amendment and let them go forward since these allegations had been made since September of last year. The judge disagreed and refused to allow the hearing to proceed.

Attorneys for this father believe that the grandparents’ attorneys know they cannot meet an endangerment burden that would need to be met on the temporary order given in 2008 but that they can meet the material change in circumstance burden at the final trial. The grandparents will argue that they should maintain custody because of the change in circumstances of the child (because the child has been in their care for almost three years) if the court agrees that the legal presumption that a fit parent should be the managing conservator does not apply in this case, with which this judge likely concurs. Of course the change in the circumstances of the child is the direct result of the judge removing the child from her home and placing her with the grandparents for almost three years while limiting the father’s access to his daughter.

The only option for this fit father to regain his daughter appears to be to factually convince a jury that even if the current legal precedent is that a fit parent should be the managing conservator does not apply in this case, they should in fact give the parent the presumption through their verdict. At this point attorneys for the father believe the facts are on their side but that the law is not; therefore, it is time to take it out of the judge’s hands.

This is an important issue given the fact that in the social study one of the concerns or allegations raised by the grandparents as a basis for the father not being a fit parent is the fact that he wants to homeschool his child and they want to keep her in public school where she is in gifted and talented programs and getting straight As. (This is one factor out of many, including eating habits, homework habits, education choices, clothing habits, etc., with which the grandparents disagree) The grandparents are basically saying because they don’t agree with the father’s parenting style or decisions that they should have custody.

Please pray for this father and his attorneys and that justice will prevail and he will be reunited with his daughter. THSC is continuing to raise funds to cover the legal fees involved in this case, not only to help this father but because of the clear ramifications it holds for all parents and the fact that grandparents who oppose the home schooling of their grandchildren are increasingly using this legal tactic to benefit their beliefs. The grandparents in this situation are doing everything they can to increase the cost of this legal battle. In fact, this father sold all of his property and eventually went through bankruptcy and represented himself for some time before THSC became involved. While THSC has spent more than $125,000 so far on this case, we need to raise $50,000 to cover the upcoming trial costs. We are asking you to partner with us by prayerfully considering a tax-deductible contribution to help us in this significant battle.