I’ve been writing since February about a custody case in Cameron in which the father and paternal grandparents are seeking to take three children from their fit mother. I was asked to testify as an expert witness on home schooling, because that seemed to be the major argument that the father and his parents presented to the court as to why the children should be removed from the mother. Home schooling in general was attacked as a non-viable educational alternative, and, of course, the socialization aspect was also challenged. The father was in favor of home schooling while he and his wife were married, although he forced his wife and children to stop attending a co-op because the people were “too religious.” He and the grandparents now argue that the mother isolated her children, and other witnesses said the children were “too naïve for their age.”
After being notified about this attack against home schooling in general, and this mom in particular, 40 home schoolers came to observe the last day of the hearing for temporary orders. They were appalled, as they recognized that virtually any of them could be victims of the same accusations.
The judge in this case has only recently been appointed by Governor Perry, and the grandparents’ attorney is from the same law firm that the judge worked for before becoming a judge. In fact, the father told his wife, “We own the courthouse,” as he threatened her that he would “take the children from her.” As if to confirm the father’s threat, while the judge made no comment regarding friends of the grandparents and father at the first hearing, he referred to the home school supporters of the mother at the third hearing as a “mob.”
In his closing arguments the grandparents’ attorney raised the charge that the mother, if given custody, would remove her children from the public school and homeschool them again. He also alleged that this mother has sought to “alienate” the children from their grandparents, and he told the court that the children should be placed in the custody of their father with the paternal grandparents serving as “custodians” in the father’s absence. This is significant, since the father travels on the average of two to three weeks out of each month!
While no evidence was presented that would challenge the fitness of this mother or that she had been in anyway abusive or neglectful, the father and his parents were asking for the children to be removed from her almost solely on the basis of the fact that she homeschooled the children and might do so again.
On March 1, 2012, the judge of the 20th District Court in Cameron issued his ruling for temporary orders that seemed to confirm the father’s assertion that his family “owned” the courthouse. In the judge’s order he denied the request by the grandparents to intervene in the case because the circumstances of the case do not meet the qualifications required by the Texas Family Code for them to do so. However, the judge then proceeded to issue an order to remove the children from this fit mother based on the assertion that the father was “more stable,” but he went further to require that the grandparents have possession of the children when the father is away on business unless it is the mother’s time for visitation.
So while the judge acknowledges that the grandparents have no standing to intervene in the case or become managing conservators, his ruling will give them de facto control of the children when the father travels extensively. That is indeed a very fine distinction! This ruling amounts to giving the grandparents control of the children two to three weeks of each month. Far from stability, it is the opposite, done on the basis of a flimsy excuse to find for the grandparents. (I am reminded of J. Vernon McGee’s definition of an excuse: The skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.) Would this judge really have concluded that the father who travels this much is truly more stable than the mother, were the grandparents not involved? The judge goes on to say that he normally doesn’t think it’s good to move children in the middle of a school year, but in this case he thinks it’s OK; they will be transferred to the father on March 16.
I thought of this judge and others like him this week when I read Leviticus 19:15: “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbor.” I have also decided to create a new page on the THSC PAC website, to be titled: “The Texas Judicial Hall of Shame.” This judge will be one of the first inductees!
Please pray for this mother and her children, who have been accustomed to their father being gone for weeks at a time but have never been separated from their mother until now. Pray also for wisdom for the attorneys representing this mother, as they seek to find a legal means to allow this godly, fit mother to keep her children. Pray for us as we continue to monitor developments in the case and look for ways to help.