Texas Supreme Court Will Decide if Dad Will be Allowed to Share Daughter with Deceased Mom’s Ex-Boyfriend
On April 22, 2020, the Texas Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a pivotal case that could determine whether parents have the constitutional right to raise their own children.
Lifesite News notes that the case, known as “In re CJC,” deals with a father who is battling against a non-relative for custody of his five-year-old daughter. The unrelated man was the fiancee of the girl’s mother, who died in 2018.
“It’s hard to imagine that a court of law would ever have to decide that a perfectly-fit father does not have the right to raise his own little girl, yet that’s exactly what’s at stake,” declared Jeremy Newman, director of public policy with Texas Home School Coalition (THSC), in a statement.
“If this case goes the wrong way, it could set a terrifying precedent in which courts in the future don’t have to favor parents in custody battles. Anyone, regardless of family status, could lay claim to a child,” he stated.
“What makes the case so significant is not just that an unrelated man was given custody of another man’s daughter, but that he was given custody on the grounds that the father had no greater right to custody than did a completely unrelated individual who happened to have cohabitated with her,” wrote Newman in a Texas Scorecard article that was published recently.
“This is a story that I don’t want any other parents to have to go through,” the girl’s father commented in a video titled “Ann is being unconstitutionally taken away from her Dad.”
“She’s already lost one parent,” said Chris —the father in this case— of his daughter, and “she wants to be with her other parent full time.”
“It’s disheartening to know that someone who hasn’t been involved in her life … can potentially have rights to her,” he remarked.
“She’s my daughter,” he asserted. “She’s my everything. She’s worth fighting for.”
“If we lose this case, it could have a devastating effect,” sustained Holly Draper, Chris’ legal counsel, “because it would set the precedent that boyfriends, nannys, roommates — anyone who happened to be living in the home with the child, and had a relatively minimal role in their life — can sue for custody and actually get rights and tie with your child.”
“If courts begin requiring fathers to share their parent privileges with other men who have no familial relationship with their child, then the status of fatherhood becomes diminished — and so do the incentives of men to become fathers and to fulfill their duties. This precedent would impact these legal rights for mothers as well,” precautioned Texas Values president and attorney Jonathan Saenz.
The legal team for the boyfriend argued that “Because Chris and Ann’s mother had previously agreed to split custody, the action of going to the court to authorize that split of custody was a ‘grant of parental authority’ to the court forever,” declared Newman.
They sustained that by doing so “Chris had ceded all his parental authority to the court when he made the decision to enter into this agreement with Ann’s mother,” he continued.
“The very basic question that the court is being asked to answer is whether or not parents have a constitutional right to raise their own kids,” Newman said to LifeSiteNews.
“The bottom line,” said Newman, “is if the court sides with the fiance, there’s a very real possibility we could end up in scenario in Texas where if you have a live-in boyfriend, or if you hire a nanny, or if you even have a student who you’re renting out a room in your house, you could give that person the legal right to take custody of your child,” simply for letting them live in your house for a brief period of time.
“When two fit parents go into court, they are not giving away their constitutional right with respect to any future non-parent down the road who is going to intervene in the future,” Draper told the court. “And the notion that that could possibly be the case should scare every fit parent.”
“This is an issue that, whether you’re on the right or you’re on the left, everybody can agree,” Draper said to LifeSiteNews. “It seems to me like the entire political spectrum really ought to be on the same page.”
The dispute emerged after the child’s mother was killed in a car accident in 2018. During that time, the mother and father were divorced and were sharing approximately 50/50 custody of their daughter.
During the final 11 months of her life, the mother was living with her boyfriend. As a consequence, the daughter also lived with her mother’s boyfriend for about half of the aforementioned 11-month period.
Following the mother’s death, the daughter’s maternal grandparents filed a lawsuit against the father, in an attempt to gain custody of their four-year-old granddaughter. The court threw out the suit, highlighting the grandparents’ inability to demonstrate that leaving the father as sole custodian would bring about any harm to the child.
Although the court found that the father was a fit parent, the court still granted partial custody to the boyfriend. It argued that the boyfriend was not required to provide the same level of proof as the grandparents.
The judge was in agreement with the boyfriend’s argument that he should receive the same treatment as the actual father.
As this case made waves in the Texas court system, certain pro-rule of law groups have filed amicus briefs in defense of the father’s constitutional rights, which included the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Texas Home School Coalition, Alliance Defending Freedom, Parental Rights Foundation, and A Voice for Choice Advocacy.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also filed a brief in support of the father.