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Texas Supreme Court to decide on child custody mediation - part 1

Let's begin this post with the background of a case about a custody agreement that was reached through mediation, which is a legally binding approach to reaching divorce and custody agreements in the state of Texas. Mediation is a popular choice for Texans as it is often a less expensive, faster and less-stressful process than a protracted court battle over divorce and child custody agreements.

This case involves the father and mother of a 7-year-old girl who divorced in 2007. Three years later the father sued the mother for primary custody of their child. They used a professionally trained mediator to reach an agreement. A mediator does not take sides or offer legal advice, only brokers an agreement. The process is extremely common in Texas divorce and child custody cases, and some counties even require it before a case can be heard at trial.

Now the father is requesting the family court to overturn this otherwise legally binding agreement over concerns for his daughter's safety. His ex-wife married a known sex offender who at the time was on probation and not allowed to have contact with children. His ex-wife allowed the contact with her daughter anyway. Now the ex-wife's husband is no longer on probation, however the father has concerns that the step-father may have acted improperly towards his child.

Now the Texas Supreme Court must decide if the two Houston judges followed the law in rejecting the legally-binding mediation agreement over concerns for the child's safety. The girl's mother has appealed these rulings stating her visitation rights and partial custody cannot be changed. The State Supreme Court must interpret conflicting sections of Texas family law on child custody in order to make a decision on the matter.

Please watch for next week's post for more about this case, including details on the section of Texas Family Code that is being challenged and where the State Bar and Attorney General side in this case.

Source: Statesman.com, "Child safety case could affect disputed Texas divorces," Chuck Lindell, May 30, 2012

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