I’ve worked on three cases recently that are similar in nature, and while I’m not sure three is enough to constitute a trend, I find it to be an interesting development in my practice, and I believe it’s something I haven’t seen the last of yet.
All three cases involved custody cases involving young, unmarried parents. In each case, a young man and young woman were involved in a relationship resulting in a child. And, in each case, the mother gave up on raising the child, and left the child in the care of the father and his parents.
In one case, the mother moved several hundred miles away; in another, the mother moved just across the Metroplex, but she moved in with another boyfriend, and the distance between two households was far enough to make travel inconvenient.
What I found particularly interesting about the cases is that the parents of the fathers initiated legal proceedings that would grant the fathers full custody. In each case, the parents were acting in the interest and welfare of their new grandchild on behalf of their son. And in all the cases, the mothers, while not putting up a legal battle, weren’t initially willing to give up custody.
In Texas, the laws state that gender is not to be factored in when determining custody, but the reality of the situation is that courts will often be predisposed to grant custody to the mother if there’s no relevant history suggesting that the father is the more fit parent. However, if a mother relinquishes an active role in raising the child, and later changes her mind and wants full custody, the courts are less likely to grant that custody – especially if the father has been caring for the child in the interim.
These are obviously not the most ideal situations for young parents and children. I’d rather see a child raised be two loving parents who are together in the same household. And yet, in representing these fathers and grandparents, I know that I’m helping those children get a greater level of support and adult involvement than they would from a single mother who had a child before she was ready and is therefore conflicted about raising that child.
We’re in an era in which grandparents are taking a greater role in raising young children – according to a Pew Research Center article published last year, data from 2011 showed that one of out every 10 children in the U.S. are now living with a grandparent, and nearly half of those children were cared for primarily by a grandparent. These recent cases I’ve worked on are adding to that trend, and I’m definitely keeping an eye out for other cases like this down the line.