Just how strong IS the fit parent presumption in Texas? Before June 26, 2020, it was fairly strong but the Texas Supreme Court delivered an opinion that day that made the fit parent presumption almost impossible to overcome. In a unanimous decision, the Texas Supreme Court held that the fit parent presumption is “deeply embedded in Texas law.” The court stated that it was the fit parent’s decision, NOT the court’s to decide if it was in the best interest of the child to have access to a non-related third party.
In this particular case, there was a pending modification of custody suit when the child’s mother died in an unfortunate car accident. The father had requested that the suit be dismissed afterwards, and the maternal grandparents along with the mother’s fiancé intervened to obtain joint managing conservatorship.
There was no evidence presented to show that the father was an unfit parent. There was testimony provided from a therapist of the child who said there was concerning behavior from the father, such as spanking the child, but the court found the father was certainly a fit parent. Ultimately, the court decided that it was a parent’s fundamental right to make decisions for the child, including who the child has access to see. The court did not award custody to either the mother’s fiancé or the maternal grandparents. Prior to this, there was a strong parental presumption, but there was not guidance such as this from the Texas Supreme Court. Since this heavily anticipated ruling came out, this case has been heavily cited to, supporting a very strong fit parental presumption which has become extremely difficult to overcome especially for related third-parties and non-related third parties.
Reference: In re C.J.C., 603 S.W.3d 804 (Tex. 2020).
Written by: Shereen Baig , 3L