Articles Posted in Parental Rights

A parent may want to change a child’s name for a number of reasons.  Texas family law allows a court to order the change of a child’s name if doing so is in the child’s best interest.  Tex. Fam. Code § 45.004(a).  Generally, courts should only order a child’s name change if it is needed for the child’s “substantial welfare.”  A mother recently appealed a court’s denial of her petition to change her children’s names from their father’s surname to her maiden name.

The parents divorced in 2011.  After allegations the father had abused the son in 2015, the mother had sole possession of both of the minor children. The mother petitioned in 2019 to change the children’s last name to her maiden name.  The children agreed to the change, but the father opposed it.  He argued they had his name since they were born and that they could change their names on their own when they are adults.

The mother testified she wanted to change the children’s names because she had grown up with her maiden name.  She said the children wanted to identify with her family’s name “to feel the closeness of [that] family.”  They had been using her name and wanted to legally change their names.  She testified that her maiden name is well respected in the area and having that name would be important when the children became involved with the family businesses.

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On June 26, 2020, the Supreme Court of Texas issued a ruling that is sure to have a major impact on future non-parent custody cases in the state of Texas. In the case of In re C.J.C., the Supreme Court of Texas found that the presumption that it is in the best interest of a child to award possession to a fit parent versus a non-parent extends to modification cases.[1] This decision is certain to be seen as a major win for parents, as the Court reinforced the long-held notion that in most cases, a parent having custody of their child is best for the child.

The case involved grandparents of the child and the boyfriend of the child’s deceased mother attempting to modify the possession of the child and gain at least some court-ordered possession from the child’s father. The trial court found that the boyfriend was entitled to some possession and even some rights, such as the right to consent to emergency medical decisions.[2] The child’s father appealed this decision. Continue Reading ›

Under Texas family law, a court may order a child’s name be changed if doing so is in the child’s best interest.  Neither parent is specifically granted the right to name the child under Texas law, but generally a child’s name will not be changed unless the party seeking the change shows a good reason for it.  In a recent case, a mother challenged a court’s order to change the child’s name to include the father’s last name.

The parties appeared to have a good co-parenting relationship.  According to the appeals court’s opinion, the child lived with the mother, but the father had always been a part of his life and assisted financially with his living expenses.  The father’s family was also significantly involved in the child’s life, helping the mother financially and with child care.

The mother had been adopted as a young child.  She grew up in Virginia and moved to Texas when she was 18.  She did not have any family other than her son in Texas.  Due to the distance, the child did not have the same amount of interaction with his mother’s family that he had with his father’s family.

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The Texas Family Code limits a trial court’s ability to issue temporary orders during a pending suit to modify the parent-child relationship.  The court cannot issue a temporary order designating or changing the designation of the person with the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence unless it is in the child’s best interest and the current circumstances would significantly impair his or her physical health or emotional development, the designated person has voluntarily given up primary care and custody, or the child is at least 12 years old and has identified the person he or she prefers to have the right to designate the primary residence.  The court is also prohibited from creating, changing, or eliminating a geographic limitation on the child’s primary residence unless those same conditions are met.

A father recently challenged a temporary court order requiring his children be enrolled in a school district where neither parent lived.

The divorce decree named the parents joint managing conservators of their three children, but granted the father the exclusive right to designate their primary residence with no geographic restriction.  Each parent had the independent right to make decisions about the children’s education.

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Most Texas divorces address property division and custody and visitation issues, where there are children.  In some cases, however, there are more unusual issues that must be addressed.  In one recent case, a father challenged a court’s order allowing the mother to change the children’s last name from their father’s name to their mother’s maiden name.

The parents had two children together.  The father is currently serving a life sentence without parole for an offense that occurred when his children were one and three years old.  The mother petitioned for divorce.  She requested to be appointed sole managing conservator, to change the children’s name, and to keep the father from having contact with the children.

The mother testified that the father’s family did not help after he was incarcerated.  She thought contact with the father would threaten the kids’ emotional welfare.  She testified that the father was a former gang member and she was afraid of him. She argued that keeping their father’s name “would be a source of anxiety, embarrassment, inconvenience or disruption” to the kids.

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Parenting is hard. Those three words are enough to capture the entire outlook of parenthood from the moment that the sweet child enters the world.

In today’s world, parenting has taken on a number of new issues such as parenting after a divorce, as an unmarried couple; single parenting; and co-parenting. Briefly stated, parenting is hard. According to the National Statistics Unit, in 2016 39.8% of births in the U.S. are by unmarried women. It is important that expecting or current modern parents consult with an attorney who can help guide them through the legal processes of ensuring full legal rights to conservatorship, possession of and access to their child and identifying numerous nuances that are becoming more and more prevalent in this modern era.  Parents today face many challenges that older generations never even dreamed about.

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In a recent Texas child custody case, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services sued to terminate a mother’s parental rights to her daughter. After the jury trial, her parental rights were terminated.

The lower court found that the mother had placed or permitted her child to stay in surroundings that threatened the child’s wellbeing. It also found she’d put the child with people who were involved in activities that were endangering the child. It also found that she’d failed to obey a service plan that set forth actions she had to complete in order to have her child returned, and terminating her rights was in the child’s best interest under Texas Family Code section 161.001(b)(1)(D), (E), and (O).

The mother had two kids, a son and a daughter from different fathers. The son was around 11 years old at the time of trial, while the daughter was 16 months old. While the mother was pregnant with her daughter, the Department got a report that claimed there was domestic violence in her home.

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In a recent Texas child custody case, a mother sought reversal of a judgment that terminated her parental rights to her two kids. The parents were the biological parents of two small kids, one a four-year-old autistic boy and the other a 19-month-old girl. They lived in an apartment, and the father served as the breadwinner, while the mother managed the household and took care of the kids.

The mother suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, and this was one reason she didn’t work outside the home. She was hospitalized for treatment in 2015 and then took medications that made her feel out of it. She needed help from the father when she was on medication.

In December 2015, the father moved out, which was the start of a marital separation. When he left, she stayed in the apartment with their kids. She didn’t have significant resources and had to manage them alone. Her son from a prior relationship visited the family that year. He was 11 and helped the mother.

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In a Texas child custody decision, the appellate court considered child custody and a petition to modify the parent-child relationship. The couple had married in 2010 and had their first child the next year. They separated and got back together multiple times, but they finally separated a last time in 2012, after police were called to stop a domestic fight.

The wife sought and received a two-year protective order against the husband that stopped him from going within 200 yards of her home, her workplace, or the child’s school, except when it was necessary for visitation. The divorce was finalized in 2013. The wife was named the child’s sole managing conservator, and the father was named possessory conservator with visitation rights.

The wife filed a motion for enforcement and a petition to modify a year later. She claimed her ex had violated the divorce decree by not paying child support, not attending an orientation at the neutral exchange location, and not going to therapy. She asked the court to hold her ex-husband in contempt and confine him. The ex-husband sued to reduce his child support obligation. She then asked for another protective order because the ex-husband had violated the original protective order by harassing her with texts in which he labeled her with derogatory names. A new protective order was granted.

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A Texas child custody case arose after a mother asked the court to grant her plea to the jurisdiction and request for dismissal of a petition to modify the parent-child relationship, which was filed by her children’s stepmother.

The mother and father in the case had divorced in 2011. The court appointed them joint managing conservators of their three kids. The kids lived with the mother, who had the right to choose their primary residence. They spent one night a week and every other weekend with their father. They had dinner with him on a different night once a week.

Two years later, the father was diagnosed with cancer, and the parents modified their child custody order, reducing the father’s child support and life insurance obligations, and adding an overnight on the night the kids ate dinner with him. The former couple agreed that if either parent became incapacitated or died, the kids would continue to have reasonable contact with their extended family on the other side.

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