June 22, 2007

House Bill 3971: Restores Parental Rights

Representative Bryan Hughes

Under current Texas law, grandparents may sue for court-ordered visitation, even if the parents object to the visitation. This means that even if parents believe it would be best for their children to not see their grandparents, the grandparents could petition the court and force the parents to give the grandparents visitation. This law has been held unconstitutional by the Texas Supreme Court, and a bill has been introduced which will bring the law back in line with the constitution, as well restore the rights of parents to direct the upbringing of their children.

House Bill 3971 has been introduced by Representative Bryan Hughes and has a hearing before the House Juvenile Justice and Family Issues Committee. This bill will do several things:

  • Provides the court with discretion to determine a child’s best interest by amending the command language of “shall” to the permissive language of “may”;
  • Requires an actual finding of parental unfitness before the state may intrude into the parent-child relationship;
  • Mandates that “special weight” be given to a parent’s decision regarding a grandparent’s access to a child; and
  • Gives long-term financial protection to families who are unconstitutionally sued by a grandparent.

H.B. 3971 did not pass the House, but the author, Representative Bryan Hughes, was able to attach it as an amendment to S.B. 228. S.B. 228 passed the House with this amendment (and over 20 other amendments). The author of S.B. 228, Senator Chris Harris decided to not accept the House Amendments and sent the bill to a conference committee. Unfortunately, at the conference committee the amendment was not kept in the bill.

3/9/2007(House) Filed
3/22/2007(House) Read first time
3/22/2007(House) Referred to Juvenile Justice & Family Issues
3/25/2007(House) Scheduled for public hearing
4/25/2007(House) Public Hearing, testimony taken
4/25/2007(House) Left Pending in Committee

HSLDA's Position:
HSLDA supports this bill.

Action Requested:
None requested at this time.

 Other Resources

April-24-2007—Texas—Calls Needed to Restore Parental Rights

May-25-2007—Texas—Calls Needed to Restore Parental Rights

Bill Text

Bill History