The parental rights trial in Fort Worth enters what may be its final day today. The fit father lost his daughter after he moved with his daughter and missed nine days of court-ordered grandparent visitation. The usual court response to this action would be to place the daughter with the grandparents for nine days and then place her back with the father.
Instead, the judge in this case had allowed a hearing to proceed with only a few days’ notice and with, in his possession, a letter from the father to the court stating that he could not attend the hearing. At that hearing, when the father was not present, the judge issued a temporary order placing the child with her grandparents on the basis that the father was an “international flight risk.” Later, during the trial the judge admitted that the record of that hearing contained no evidence presented to support the claim that the father was a flight risk. Yet the trial judge required the child placed with the grandparents, and three years passed before the father has now been able to lay out his case before a jury.
The temporary orders issued in 2008 also said that the father could have no visitation until further notice. In the three years that this case has been going on, the father, who has had no allegation of abuse or neglect leveled against him, has had only a one-hour supervised visit every other weekend. The grandparents have also recently refused to allow him to talk to his daughter on the phone as had been his daily practice. At the current trial the father read letters that he had written to his daughter on an almost daily basis, and later the grandparents admitted that they had refused to allow their granddaughter to receive these letters. A social worker admitted under oath that what the grandparents have done could be construed as alienating the child from her father.
Earlier in the trial, when the judge asked to interview the child, the attorneys for the father pointed out that the judge was not allowed to do so under the Texas Family Code because the jury was to make the decision regarding the father being allowed to be the managing conservator. The judge responded that this was correct, but that the law as it was written in 2008 allowed a judge to do so if the child had signed a document stating that she preferred to be with the grandparents, which she had not done.
In the middle of the trial, the attorneys for the grandparents were confronted with the fact that the child had been taken to their offices and had been urged to sign a preference form stating her desire to be with her grandparents. The evidence seems to be clear that the grandparents have made every effort to alienate their granddaughter from her father and that their whole case can be summed up in this way: they have had the child for three years and they should be allowed to keep her now because it would be traumatic for her if a change were made.
This case is another dark example of how the legal system can and is manipulated and abused by non-parents to rip children from fit parents. Please pray for the father, his attorneys, and the jury–that justice will be done and that the father and his daughter will be reunited. The jury may very well receive the case today and begin their deliberations.