I. Parental Rights Eroded
Children thrive in homes with loving parents. Parents have the God-given right and responsibility to raise and protect their own children. Sadly, current Texas law allows justice to be set aside and for children to be torn from their families unnecessarily.
Right now, various provisions of the Texas family law are being exploited and allow for nonparental adults to sue fit parents for access to or possession of their children. Those enabled to sue include grandparents, ex-step grandparents, estranged family members, and other third parties. In many of these cases, children are being removed from their homes without even an accusation of any problem in their homes or with their parents, removing the parents’ rights to due process.
It was two years before I was permitted to even see my child again–under armed guard at the courthouse. . . . No one ever accused me of neglect or misbehavior or even of being an incompetent parent. No one . . . not a psychologist, not a social worker, not a non-expert witness . . . not even the in-laws who were allowed to sue me to take away my daughter and strip me of my fundamental rights as a parent.
~Jim Loose, Parent
II. Children Being Hurt
Tragically the loopholes in Texas law allowing children to be removed from good, loving, and stable homes in Texas cause unnecessary trauma and pain. On-going and long-term negative effects from these types of removal impact every aspect of the children’s lives:
The children are terrified, worried about their parents, do not understand why this is happening, and very often believe that it is their own fault somehow. This causes a normal stress reaction in the children and engages the “fight” or “flight” mechanism as a protective response. Thus, the “fight” reactors often get diagnosed with aggression, ADHD, explosive anger disorders, and bipolar. The “flight” reactors get diagnosed with depression and somatic disorders.
~ Johana Scott, Executive Director, Parent Guidance Center
III. Loving Families Torn Apart
Separate provisions protect children in actual danger, however children affected by these laws live in homes with loving and diligent, not abusive or neglectful parents. Instead of children being protected, loving families are being torn apart.
Not only have we seen children traumatized and put directly in harm’s way as a result of these laws, but we have seen families that were happy, loving, and safe irreparably damaged, all with the blessing of an ill-conceived law that directly targets the very people it was meant to protect.”
~ Tim Lambert, President, Texas Home School Coalition
Goals of the bill:
- Defend the rights of parents, providing due process by closing loopholes allowing in-laws to file frivolous lawsuits, often vindictively, against loving parents.
- Protect children from “legal kidnappings” which take them from loving homes by establishing hard standards of evidence that must be met before a court can order children to be taken from their parents.
- Help keep families together by stopping indefinite removals of children from their homes by placing restrictions on the use of so-called “temporary orders”— a type of court order that has no actual deadline or end-date.
Possession/Access: Access and possession are often used synonymously with visitation. Access more often refers to telephone calls or e-mail communication. Possession applies in situations where a party is given possession of a child over a weekend, or certain hours of particular days. However, because the time limitations on possession are not defined, judges can “temporarily” give “possession” to a third party for an indefinite period.
Custody: Custody is a commonly used term that refers to conservatorship.
Conservatorship: An individual who is granted conservatorship has been granted complete possession of a child, full responsibility for the child, and the right to direct the child’s care, health, education, and upbringing. For an exhaustive list of rights exclusive to conservators, see Family Code Section 153.132.
Fit Parent: A parent is assumed to be fit unless his or her conservatorship of the child is shown not to be in the best interest of the child because it significantly impairs the child’s physical health or emotional development. A parent could be deemed unfit in situations such as abandoning the child without expressing intent to return, or deliberately placing the child in dangerous situations or surroundings. For an exhaustive list of what would constitute an unfit parent, see Family Code Section 161.001.
SAPCR: Stands for “Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship.” This refers to any lawsuit that involves custody of or access to the child, or in some way modifies the parental rights of the child’s parent.