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How the Courts are Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship: Recent Opinions on Another Form of NonParent Standing Known as “Party Affected”

You are unhappy with how custody and possession turned out for a child in your life, and you’re not the parent. But, you want to do something about it because you were part of the original proceeding, and you feel as though the circumstances (facts and evidence) have substantially changed since the judge rendered his/her opinion. And, you feel as though if the judge was updated on the new facts, then that decision could be changed. Maybe the child’s conservators haven’t been complying with the judge’s orders or they’ve started doing things that you believe are harmful to the child such as using controlled substances. However, you are concerned about how to even go about getting this process started. So, you contact your attorney at Guest & Gray in Kaufman County.

Your attorney advises that a nonparent can file a petition to modify the parent-child relationship if that nonparent was a party affected by the previous order that they are seeking to modify. In fact, the 14th District Houston Court of Appeals in In the Interest of S.A.M., P.R.M., and S.A.M., Minor Children produced a clear ruling for this type of standing and it broke it down into two analyses–what is a party and what does it mean to be affected.

The court held that a party, quite simply, is a nonparent who was actually a party to the prior original suit. That is, if the nonparent was an intervenor and the court never struck this designation. Or, if a nonparent filed the original proceeding or was a respondent.

Furthermore, a party is affected if they are granted rights and duties in the final orders. Meaning, if a nonparty is given a certain right to the child like to pick them up from school or have certain visitation, and that nonparty is also supposed to notify the other parties of any change of address.

The Court held that if both of these components are established, then that would be a party affected by prior orders. Therefore, there is a lesson to be learned here–for parties wanting to keep nonparents out of the picture, do not include them in the original orders because if anything, they could establish standing through this avenue. Or, if you are a nonparent, try to find a way through negotiations to be included in the final orders.

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