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Texas case has some questioning family law

The case of a Texas mother who thought she had temporarily surrendered child custody to her parents has spurred some legislators to seek a new law to address custody issues.

The woman, 43, lives in Lubbock, Texas. She sent her 15-year-old son to stay with her parents, who run a program for troubled young people in an adjacent state, after he encountered some issues. Now, they will not return him and have filed court papers to keep custody of the teen.

A judge in the other state gave the grandparents full custody because she ruled the mother unfit for wanting to enroll him in the program.

In Texas, such issues are covered by the Texas Grandparent Access law, which took effect nearly two decades ago to guarantee that grandparents can still see their grandchildren in the event of death or divorce of the child's parents.

One group is advocating a change to the law, stating that frequently in custody battles between grandparents and parents, the side that has the most money to spend wins and the best interest of the child isn't always taken into account. While the director of the advocacy group acknowledged this case presents a unique challenge because it is being fought across state lines, he said there are plenty of cases just inside Texas to illustrate why the law needs to be changed. He said family law judges often see cases where non-parents want to interfere with, or gain, custody.

Now, lawmakers are getting behind the proposed Texas Parental Rights Restoration Act, which would give temporary custody to someone other than that parents only if abuse or neglect occur. It also would require a hearing within 45 days should the grandparents bring such action.

One law professor said Texas already grants protection to parents in all but extreme circumstances. However the law might need to be altered, Texas legislators owe it to the children of the state to make sure any laws on the books are in their best interest.

Source: KCBD, Critics: Grandparent access law threatens parental rights," Natasha Sweatte and James Clark, Aug. 27, 2012

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