Most divorce disputes do not garner national attention. However, one particular divorce case and related custody battle in Bexar County have become highly publicized. The results of this case are important on a personal level for the parties involved, as well as on a political level for the state of Texas.
Some same-sex couples decide to divorce, just like their opposite-sex counterparts, but as you undoubtedly know, same-sex divorces are more complicated in certain states. Texas law does not currently recognize same-sex marriage or same-sex divorce, but some gay and lesbian residents who were married in other states are challenging the norm.
Texas child advocates may have noticed that changes in how family law courts apply the venerable "best interests of the child" litmus test for deciding whom that child will live with have unexpectedly given a boost for to single-dad households. The concept of shared parenting is becoming the go-to paradigm for awarding child custody. Some say the rise of shared parenting is at least partially behind more single fathers raising their children.
In Texas and all around the country, family law judges have to make hard decisions on what is in the best interests of children affected by divorce. Some of the most difficult may be those child custody situations in which a custodial parent is seeking to relocate along with the children. Whether it is an in-state move or one that would take a child halfway around the globe, move-away cases often result in one parent or the other suffering anguish.
A shift toward equal custody time for both parents is in the works as shared parenting advocates in Texas and around the country are encouraging several states to consider legislation that would change what some feel are outmoded laws granting custody to one parent, usually the mother. In 2013, Arkansas enacted a law that encourages "approximate and reasonable equal division of time" between parents in child custody determinations, in the process overturning previous court decisions that tended to hold shared custody in disfavor. Lawmakers in Minnesota and Florida had also passed similar measures, only to see them vetoed by the governors of those states.
A 33-year-old woman was taken into custody in December 2013 on charges of allegedly kidnapping her two children, a 4-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy. On Jan. 14, the woman received a trial date of April 7. Her bond was set at $20,000. The father of the two children, who is a resident of Texas, was awarded custody of the children during the couple's divorce proceedings. The woman was taken into custody in New York after allegedly fleeing with the two children from Livingston County, Michigan, where the couple's divorce was finalized.
When handling shared custody issues, families in Texas and other states should consider how children are affected if one parent ignores an established arrangement. On Dec. 28, two California fathers were finally reunited with their abducted sons more than 18 months after the mother refused to return home from a court-authorized visit to Europe. After filing child concealment claims, the fathers were granted sole child custody by a U.S. court, and FBI officials secured an international warrant for the mother's arrest.
Families challenged by children with mental illness may be interested in a trend occurring in Texas, Illinois and other states. Known as a psychiatric "lockout," it is the practice of parents who refuse to allow a child to return home or to make living provision for them when they are discharged from a mental health facility. Believing that their children will receive needed mental health care in state custody that they are financially unable to provide, parents relinquish custody of the child.
Parents in Texas and across the nation may be getting help with foreign custody battles if a new bill passes. Between 2008 and 2013, the federal government reported that 7,000 American children were abducted by one of their parents and taken overseas. The parents that remained in the U.S. battled for custody or visitation rights in countries where U.S. laws don't apply and an international treaty has been ignored. Most children never come back. Parents are often frustrated from trying to work with other nations and the U.S. State Department. Some in Congress want more attention placed on the problem of international child custody battles.
A Plano dad is dealing with an ongoing fight with his ex-fiancee in the country of England over the custody of his daughter, who is now 4 years old. He hasn't seen his daughter since she was a toddler.