Next week attorneys for the father whom THSC has been helping for more than a year will be back in the 23lst District Court in Tarrant County. This time, however, the hearing will not be about whether or not this fit father will be able to get his daughter back after three years of “temporary” orders by the judge of this same court. That issue was settled in August after a jury trial.
For those who have not followed this sordid saga, this Tarrant County judge issued an order to remove the then-10-year-old daughter from her father (because the father had missed nine days of court-appointed grandparent visitation) and placed her with her grandparents who, along with their attorneys, then proceeded to drag the case out as long as possible, hoping to make the process so expensive that the father would run out of money. He did, after which time he sold all his property, filed bankruptcy, and continued to represent himself for more than a year. THSC then came to his assistance and, with the help of the home school community, has since been paying his legal fees.
In July the judge refused to allow a hearing that had been scheduled to rescind his previous order. Finally, with no other choice, the father elected to have a jury trial to remove the decision from this judge’s hands. After 10 days of testimony, a jury of his peers ruled that this father should have his daughter returned to him.
The process has been bittersweet. While he has his daughter back and is in the process of rebuilding their life together, the legal fees necessary to make this happen have mounted to almost $200,000, and that’s just within the last year. THSC is still committed to paying these fees as we continue to be enabled to bear this burden by like-minded defenders of the fundamental constitutional right of fit parents to direct the care, control, and upbringing of their children.
As I said, next week the father and his attorneys will be back in front of this judge to argue that the grandparents should be required to pay the father’s legal fees. The Texas Family Code allows the judge in this case to order them to do so. I pray that he will, but considering the past history of this judge’s rulings throughout this case, I’m not holding my breath.
We have begun to move toward a multi-pronged approach to address these kinds of attacks against parental rights. We are already preparing for the next legislative session to seek again to pass the Texas Parental Rights Restoration Act. (TPRRA). However, in the meantime we need not only to pay the current legal fees in the case discussed above, but we also need to be proactive and begin to build a significant litigation fund to take on other such cases as they come our way. Non-parents in these cases almost always depend on the strategy employed in this case, which is to drag out the case until the parent is forced into bankruptcy. This current battle is too important to lose, and we will not, but we need the help of like-minded people to pray for us and stand with us in order to prevail.