Protect and Restore Parental Rights

On Monday, April 15, 2013, the Texas House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence will be presented two very different bills regarding amending the Grandparent Access Statute. This bill has been abused over the years to take children from fit parents and bring financial ruin to children and families simply because a grandparent disagrees with the legitimate parenting decisions of the parent.

The Texas Parental Rights Restoration Act (TPRRA)(HB 2547) will close the loopholes that have been used to abuse the intent of the legislature in this law and will restore the fundamental constitutional right of parents. Read an extensive discussion of the issue here. The legislature intended that grandparents who were seeking access or possession (visitation or temporarily taking the child) would have to meet a high standard, which is proving that denial of this access or possession would “significantly impair the physical health or emotional well-being of the child.”

The current statutes allow a judge to place a child with the grandparents under “temporary orders” before proving what the statute requires and sometimes keeping the child indefinitely and escalating the cost of the suit that can result in bankruptcy for the fit parent. Read about one such mother here.

On the other side is a bill (HB 393), which would expand the current law to allow a grandparent to sue an intact family rather than being restricted to the current law of only when there has been a death, divorce, or incarceration. This would mean that any grandparent could sue any couple and drag them into such a lawsuit. In addition, the bill would overturn the current case law requiring expert testimony to prove that the denial of access or possession would “significantly impair the physical health or emotional well-being of the child.” This would dramatically increase the number of such suits.

The bottom line is that a parent’s fundamental constitutional right to direct the care, control, and upbringing of their child should not be just for parents who have enough money to defend themselves in prolonged, expensive lawsuits.

Please call the following members of the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence and ask them to support HB 2547 for the following reasons:

  • Judges should make specific findings when ordering access or possession which current law does not require.
  • The standard of evidence should be raised from “preponderance” to “clear and convincing” when overruling the rights of fit parents just as the Family Code requires in termination of parental rights.
  • Low income and single parent families should be protected from financial ruin by requiring the recovery of their legal fees in frivolous or harassing cases.
  • Requiring courts to hold a hearing on the merits of the case within 45 days and not allowing any temporary orders until that time. This would effectively end needless and prolonged litigation.

Oppose HB 393 for the following reasons:

  1. This bill goes too far in allowing non-parents to sue fit parents.
  2. The bill allows a judge to overrule the constitutional right of fit parents on the basis of testimony from anyone instead of an expert regarding what would “significantly impair the physical health or emotional well-being of a child.”
  3. This measure will directly impact the low-income parents who are not able to bear the financial burden to protect their parental rights.
  4. Parental rights are for all parents, not just those who have financial means.

Author of H.B. 393:

Rep. Senfronia Thompsonsenfronia.thompson@house.state.tx.us, (512) 463-0720

Members:

Rep. Ken Kingken.king@house.state.tx.us, (512) 463-0736

Rep. Jessica Farrarjessica.farrar@house.state.tx.us, (512) 463-0620

Rep. Marsha Farneymarsha.farney@house.state.tx.us,  (512) 463-0309

Rep. Lance Gooden, lance.gooden@house.state.tx.us, (512) 463-0458

Rep. Ana Hernandez Luna, ana.hernandez@house.state.tx.us, (512) 463-0614

Attend the Hearing

The hearing will be “upon adjournment” of the House (probably 1:30 p.m.) on Monday, April 15, in Room E2.012 in the Capitol Extension. (See meeting schedule.) We need:

  • People at the hearing to register against H.B. 393 and for H.B. 2547 without giving testimony,
  • People who have been through these kinds of experiences to give oral and/or written testimony, and
  • Family law attorneys to testify against H.B. 393 and for H.B. 2547.

Contact Trent Williams (512-763-2303), THSC Legislative Team, to let us know you are coming.

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