A court must base its decisions regarding custody and visitation primarily on the child’s best interest.  In a recent Texas case, a father challenged a court’s modification of his prior possession order, restricting him to supervised visitation with his daughter.

The mother petitioned to be named the child’s sole managing conservator and asked the court to either deny visitation with the father or, in the alternative, to require it to be supervised.  She alleged the child had reported being spanked, being physically punished by her stepmother and her step-grandmother, being forced to stand in a corner, being underfed sometimes, being subjected to verbal abuse and threats of physical violence, and being required to stay in her room watching television for hours while she was in her father’s custody.  The mother also alleged the child’s foot had been injured by her step-grandmother and not given medical attention.  She further alleged the child’s stepmother repeatedly tried to put makeup on the child when she was allergic to it.

Temporary Restraining Order Granted Against Father

The court issued a temporary restraining order giving the mother continuous possession and access to the child and denying the father unsupervised possession and access.  The court held a hearing and then signed temporary orders requiring the father to coordinate with the mother and a counselor to schedule visits with both parents, the daughter, and the counselor.  The counselor would make a recommendation regarding the father’s visitation.  The father failed to comply with the order, resulting in a delay in the final trial.

At trial, the parents and the counselor testified.  The counselor testified he recommended the child not be punished for expressing her feelings.  He also recommended the father be responsible for discipline when the daughter was in his custody.  He said the father told him he would send him a written plan describing how issues would be addressed, but did not do so.  The father admitted he had not reported back to the counselor.  Additionally, the counselor did not recommend the father have unsupervised visits with the child.

The mother testified about the allegations in her petition. She also testified the daughter had improved health and wellbeing since the court restricted her father’s visitation.  The mother also testified the father had one lunch with the child during the prior year and otherwise had not called or attended her events.

The father testified he had last seen the child at therapy in January 2019 and had not sent her any correspondence or called her since December 2018.  The father said he did not have any confidence the mother would not interfere with his communications with the daughter.  He said it could have been the sheriff’s “scare tactics” or his own interpretation of the legal ramifications that led him to believe he was restrained from seeing his daughter.

The father argued supervised visitation based on the counselor’s recommendation was not in the child’s best interest, so he appealed.

Appeals Court Finds Sufficient Evidence for Supervised Visitation

The appeals court found there was sufficient evidence supporting the trial court’s decision to require supervised visits.  The trial court found that supervision was in the child’s best interest.  The counselor recommended supervision after the father failed to submit the written plan about how he would address certain issues.  The trial court also indicated it was unable to trust he would follow the court’s orders if he were allowed unsupervised visitation.  The court noted he had already failed to comply with the counselor’s request, court orders, and the mother’s requests.  The appeals court found the trial court had based its decision to require supervision on the child’s best interest and that it was reasonable based on the evidence.  The appeals court found no abuse of discretion by the trial court.

For Better Results – Hire Experienced Legal Counsel

The father’s lack of cooperation seems to have weighed heavily against him with both the trial court and the appeals court.  If you are concerned about complying with a court order, you should consult with an experienced Texas custody attorney right away.  Call McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200 to schedule a consultation.