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How the Courts are Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship: Recent Opinions on the Safest Choice Between Denying vs. Limiting a Parent’s Access to the Child

If you are a parent involved in a divorce with your children or in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship, you have to be careful in terms of deciding what conservatorship you ask for, or even agree to. In particular, let’s say that the other parent has a lot of personal issues and you would prefer that they not be in your child’s life because it would not in the child’s best interests. You contact your attorney at Guest & Gray, P.C. in Kaufman County who informs you that there are two choices–either request that the Court deny the parent access to the child; or, request that the parent’s access be limited. You want the other parent to be completely denied possession. However, your attorney advises that this may not be the best choice.

This is because of a recent opinion in Fish v. Lebrie, where the Austin Court of Appeals established that when a parent’s access to the child is completely denied, that is essentially the same as terminating parental rights. Therefore, if a parent’s access is going to be denied, then it must rise to what the Court termed as “extreme circumstances” that would justify keeping the parent from the child. However, the court left it unclear as to what this would mean; but yet also suggested that a parent’s access could be drastically limited and not terminated, and that would be okay.

The court might have been unwilling to draw a bright line rule in that particular case because the mother presented evidence that the father emotionally and physically abused the child. But, the father had the child’s psychologist testify that this wasn’t true.

Even though that case involved conflicting evidence, it seems that it would be safe just to limit the other parent’s access to the child rather than completely deny access. That way, one would avoid the issue presented in the Lebrie case. This is because a parent’s right to their child is considered constitutional and one of the most protected rights. However, note that this recent appellate opinion doesn’t make denying a parent’s access to the child an impossible task.

Based upon this, you will need to ensure that the facts of your case do not present the dilemma faced in the Lebrie case and be cautious when seeking to deny the other parent possession of or access to the child.

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