Since the start of 2023, the Family Freedom Project (FFP) has been involved in IN re NH, a case marked by its implications for parental rights and government intervention in family matters. The case in question presents a fundamental question about parental rights in Texas.
The heart of the matter in front of the Supreme Court of Texas (SCOTX) revolves around the legal rule that judges must begin a case by presuming that a parent is acting in the best interests of their child. This principle was emphasized by the SCOTX in a previous case called “In re C.J.C.”
The issue left unaddressed by the SCOTX in previous cases is this one: What level of harm to a child must be present before a judge can overrule the decisions of a parent?
FFP’s amicus brief addresses the main issue at hand in the “IN re NH” case: the circumstances under which a judge should be allowed to overrule a parent’s decisions for their child. There is confusion among the courts of appeals in Texas about when a judge is permitted to overrule a parent’s decisions. Some courts have leaned towards requiring strong proof that not granting a request would seriously harm the child (the “significant impairment” standard). Others have treated the issue as though virtually any amount of evidence against the parent is enough.
The crux of FFP’s argument is that the “significant impairment” standard is both constitutionally required and most closely aligns with long established policy in Texas. In FFP’s brief to the court, we outline the long history of how Texas has historically used this standard to ensure the protection of parental rights, and articulate the reasons that such a test is constitutionally necessary.
FFP’s amicus curiae brief urges the SCOTX to support the “significant impairment” test and hold that judges are not allowed to overrule the decisions of a parent for their child unless it is necessary to protect the child from significant harm. By doing so, we hope to create a clear set of guidelines that will protect parental rights into the future.