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Custody case before Texas Supreme Court

Two Texas judges have refused to accept a binding agreement in a child custody and visitation case, agreeing with a girl's father that the arrangement is not in her best interest. Now, the case is in the hands of the Supreme Court. 

After going through mediation, the father signed an agreement that gave his daughter's mother visits on the weekend with their girl, age 7. The father, however, told the Houston judge he had changed his mind after finding that his ex-wife and her new husband allowed the youngster to climb into bed with them while the man wore no clothes. The girl's stepfather is a registered sex offender.

The associate judge, who by law was not supposed to reject a signed agreement, said he agreed with the girl's father and would not finalize the agreement. A second judge, this one a district judge, also would not sign off on what the former couple had agreed to in mediation. The judges believed that spending time with the sex offender could put the girl in danger.

The man's ex-wife appealed the second option to the Texas Supreme Court. That court heard the case several months ago but has not issued a ruling. The attorney for the mother told the Supreme Court that it has no power to overturn a mediated agreement.

In court, the woman testified that she knew her husband was a registered sex offender long ago when they started dating. Her lawyer said that under the agreement both parents signed, the girl's stepfather agreed to stay at least five miles away and submit the address and phone number of where he would be when the girl visited her mother. The father said new information made that agreement unacceptable.

Parties are bound to abide by the rules of an agreement, and if the stepfather agreed to stay five miles away, that's certainly different than sleeping naked with the girl. A court's responsibility is to serve the child's best interests, and it appears that's what the judges believed they were doing.

Source: Austin American-Statesman, "Child safety case could affect disputed Texas divorces," Chuck Lindell, May 28, 2012

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