Why there may nonetheless be hope for non-parents in custody battles

Anyone practicing family law in Texas should be very familiar with the case In re CJC, 603 SW3d 804 (Tex. 2020) by this point. As an attorney representing the father in a 9-0 victory in the Texas Supreme Court, I have worked to protect the constitutional rights of fit parents to raise their children as they choose without government interference. The court’s ruling, based on the US Supreme Court ruling in Troxel v. Granville, 530 US 57 (2000) tipped very strongly in favor of the parents. In particular, the court ruled that even with certain changes, as long as a parent is fit, a trial court cannot substitute that of the fit parent for its best interest opinion. This constitutional “fit parent presumption” applies in both original lawsuits and certain amendment proceedings when a non-parent first enters the litigation.

At first glance, CJC appeared to offer little hope to non-parents who wanted rights or access to a child. Although, as Judge Lehrmann pointed out in her affirmation, the court did not address the level of evidence required to overcome the presumption of parental suitability, opinion seemed to swing the pendulum wide in cases involving non-parents to swing the side of the parents.

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