In a significant victory for parental rights, the Supreme Court of Texas (SCOTX) recently delivered crucial wins in two cases, marking a triumph for Texas families. These decisions underscore the importance of protecting the fundamental rights of parents in the face of legal challenges. 

Case #1: Limiting CPS Power and Protecting Parental Rights

The first case, titled R.J.G., R.J.G., D.G.M., dealt with the question of whether Child Protective Services (CPS) could terminate parental rights based on a parent’s failure to comply with administrative requirements. The SCOTX firmly asserted that termination should not hinge on inconsequential bureaucratic tasks, emphasizing the constitutional weight of parental rights.

The court’s opinion, delivered by Justice Huddle, highlighted that parental rights can only be terminated if crucial, court-ordered tasks are explicitly outlined, and the parent substantially fails to fulfill them. The ruling emphasized that termination should not occur due to minor technicalities but rather when a parent fails to address significant responsibilities mandated by the court.

Chris Branson, a Senior Fellow at the Family Freedom Project (FFP), filed a brief advocating for a narrow interpretation of the law to prevent technicalities from tearing families apart. The court’s decision clarified that termination requires clear and convincing evidence of noncompliance with a specifically established requirement in the court-ordered service plan. Ultimately, the court found insufficient evidence to support termination, rendering a significant victory for Texas parents.

Case #2: Protecting Parent-Child Relationships from Unnecessary Judicial Intervention

In the second case, In re NH, the SCOTX denied an appeal by a non-parent seeking to undermine the rights of a child’s biological parent. This denial upholds the Court of Appeals’ opinion that judges can only interfere in the parent-child relationship if necessary to protect the child from significant harm.

Cecilia Wood, a family law attorney from Austin and a partner to FFP, filed a brief emphasizing the need to protect children from harm as the primary criterion for judicial intervention. While the SCOTX declined to issue its opinion, leaving the favorable Court of Appeals opinion in place, it did not settle the critical legal question statewide. FFP continues its efforts to seek clarification from SCOTX on the standard judges are required to follow when considering intervention in the parent-child relationship.

These victories at the SCOTX represent crucial steps in the ongoing battle to uphold parental rights. The decisions highlight the court’s recognition of the constitutional significance of parental rights and the need to protect families from unnecessary state intervention. 

However, the journey is far from over. As we step into 2024, we remain committed to defending families and parental rights in the state of Texas.