Currently in Texas, standing options for third-party nonparents seeking to file suits affecting the parent-child relationship (“SAPCRs”) are extremely limited. And, even though the standing options are codified, the evidence necessary to meet the threshold elements may be drastically different depending on the case’s location. These third parties, who have previously exercised parental responsibilities, must make showings to the court that most divorced parents could not make; and this is just for a chance to bring a claim in court. While this seems unfair, and Texas should absolutely resolve the split among its appellate courts, there is one extremely important part that has yet to be mentioned: the child. Standing determinations do not involve a best interest of the child inquiry; this must be changed. This Comment uses a San Antonio Court of Appeals case to highlight both the Texas appellate-court split and the lack of a best interest of the child consideration. Using the case’s facts, this Comment breaks down the general third-party standing option by venue to show just how different the requirements are depending on where in Texas the party resides. In most cases, the outcome spotlights that the child is the true victim of these standing limitations. Professor James Dwyer explains that relationships have a far greater impact on children than on adults. Courts should consider this when determining the best interest of the child. More importantly, the best interest of the child should be a primary consideration, not one that is considered after the plaintiff establishes standing. Allowing a third-party parent to file suit is highly likely to serve the child’s best interest. Once judges apply the best-interest standard at the appropriate stage, judges should then look through the child’s lens for making recommendations on the child’s behalf. Too few judges have said too few words about the lack of the best interest of the child consideration when issuing standing determinations. But with our nation’s evolving familial structure, the time has come to reconsider how courts determine who may bring suits affecting children.
Jessica Nation Holtman,
Standing in the Way of Our Goals: How the Best Interest of the Child (Whatever that Means) is Never Reached in Texas Due to Lack of Standing for Third-Party Parents,
Tex. A&M L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.tamu.edu/lawreview/vol5/iss3/2