In 2020, FFP’s legal team helped secure the most significant parental rights victory before the Texas Supreme Court ever achieved.
In the case of CJC, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in a 9-0 decision that parents have a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution to make decisions for their children, and that a court must presume that a parent is a fit parent who is acting in the best interest of their child.
As a result, courts across Texas began issuing new opinions protecting parental rights where they had often been trampled in the past. However, in the wake of that decision, courts began asking an important legal question that had not been addressed by the CJC case. At what point should a judge be allowed to overrule the decision of a parent in order to protect a child?
Enter Family Freedom Project. For the last decade, our team has been fighting in the Texas legislature to enshrine a legal standard clarifying that a court is not allowed to overrule a parent’s decisions for their child unless it is necessary to protect the child from significant harm.
This legal standard is already used as the default standard in many areas of Texas law, but has never been comprehensively adopted as the required standard for overruling parental rights.
Currently, the Texas Supreme Court is considering this exact question. In Kalinec, the court has been asked to decide what legal standard is required before a judge may overrule the decisions of a parent. This case could have sweeping implications for all Texas parents.
The father in the case, Kalinec, is having his rights over his children threatened even though nobody contests that he is a fit parent. Several years ago, Kalinec’s family was investigated by CPS. During that investigation, the children were sent to live temporarily with their maternal grandmother.
Kalinec was eventually cleared by CPS and the court and the children were sent home to live with him. However, the maternal grandmother argued that because the children had lived with her during the CPS case, and because Kalinec had been investigated by CPS (even though the children had been returned), she should have just as much right to raise the children as their own father.
She sued for custody of both children.
Having won his battle with CPS, Kalinec found himself in a second battle for his children, except this time it was with his in-law. FFP has recruited and coordinated a legal team to represent Kalinec before the Texas Supreme Court and file amicus briefs in his defense.
Our position is simple: courts may not overrule the decisions of a parent regarding their children unless it is necessary to protect the child from significant harm. A mere parenting disagreement between the parent and a third party, or even between a parent and the judge, is not enough.
If the court rules in Kalinec’s favor and adopts the standard suggested by FFP’s team, the protections for parental rights at every court in Texas will be substantially reinforced.