San Antonio Court of Appeals breaks from tradition on 102.003(a)(9) Standing

March 6, 2010 Posted in Child Custody, Child Support

For some reason I find these standing cases super interesting. The analysis almost always focuses on ‘what exactly makes you a parent’ is fascinating to me.

In re Y.B. 300 S.W.3d 1

Here are the facts as reported from the case: Swift and Tina Bruno have known each other for over ten years. In December of 2004, Bruno traveled to the Ukraine to adopt three girls. Bruno is the girls’ only legal parent. On April 22, 2007, Swift and Bruno married. On January 21, 2008, Swift moved out of Bruno’s house. He filed a suit affecting the parent-child relationship (“SAPCR”) on March 10, 2008. A week later, Bruno filed a plea to the jurisdiction and motion to dismiss, challenging Swift’s standing to bring a SAPCR. Conflicting testimony was presented regarding whether Swift met the requisite amount of time required to establish standing under the Family Code. The trial court granted Bruno’s plea to the jurisdiction and motion to dismiss, and awarded Bruno $4,000 in attorney’s fees. In its findings of fact and conclusions of law, the trial court found that Swift did not have actual care, control, and possession of the children for at least six months. The trial court concluded that Swift lacked standing under section 102.003(a)(9) of the Family Code to bring a SAPCR. Swift now appeals.

The majority held the Trial Court erred by dismissing the lawsuit because Swift raised a fact issue on whether he is and was in fact a parent.

Justice Rebecca Simmons filed a dissenting opinion. She felt “At best, the evidence shows Swift lived in Bruno’s home for approximately nine months. According to Swift, he would: sometimes put cereal out for the children in the morning; eat dinner with the family; drive the children to school; help with homework; take the children fishing; bath the youngest child; and the girls called him “Daddy.” Justice Simmons felt these activities are typical of those undertaken by stepparents and felt the majority’s broad interpretation of 102.003 would give almost anyone involved with children for more than six months standing to file SAPCR. Justice Simmons cites, Troxel as a parent’s fundamental right to make decisions for their children as well as In the Interest of M.J.G. 248 S.W.3d 753 where the grandparents of MJG had a heck of a lot more involvement with the children than Swift had with YB and the Motion to Strike was granted in the MJG case. Based on the evidence in this case there was no fact issue because there were no facts establishing Swift mad any decisions at all concerning the health, education and welfare under the M.J.G. standard. Seems like Justice Simmons got it right. Under the majority’s standard, almost anyone would qualify for standing because the burden to create a fact issue on this is so low.