Parental Alienation- What is it and what does it mean for my Texas Family Law case?

In a recent 14th Court of Appeals decision out of Houston, a Mother appealed the final order of a trial court that awarded the Father a modification in child custody case. This case presented a unique set of circumstances that I thought would be interesting for you all to read about in one of our blog posts.

Let’s introduce the parties and their particular circumstances before we discuss what happened in the Court of Appeals.

Background of the Duffey Family

The case that we are going to discuss is Duffey v. Duffey (No. 14-16-00144-CV). The case involved a Mother, Father and two children. The parties began their journey through our legal system in 2010 when Mother and Father got a divorce from one another.

The Final Decree of Divorce that came out of that case resulted in Mother being appointed the Sole Managing Conservator of the two children.

Father became merely a Possessory Conservator who had supervised visitation. There is a presumption in Texas that appointing parents Joint Managing Conservators is in the best interest of the children, but in this instance the father had a history of committing family violence which trumped that presumption and resulted in Mother being named the Sole Managing Conservator of the children.

Two years later, in 2012, an allegation was made against the father that he touched one of the children inappropriately. Mother made a call to the Department of Family and Protective Services and started taking their other child to therapy.

Child number two made an allegation during one of her therapy sessions against the father and the therapist was duty bound to contact the Department as well. As Child Protective Services began to investigate the allegations, Father was allowed to continue with his supervised visits.

Mother files a Modification and Father follows suit

Based on the aforementioned information, Mother filed a Modification in order to further restrict the contact the her ex-Husband would have with their children. Father filed a countersuit alleging that he had not been able to see his children over the prior year due to the Mother not allowing him contact with the children.

He alleged that it was only recently that he was able to have supervised visits with the children through a hosting facility for supervised visitation called Guardians of Hope.

Throughout the dual-modification case, Mother was contacting law enforcement about the allegations made against Father. She also took the children to a new therapist who also contacted the Department about what the children were saying about their father.

Ultimately when all of the investigations were concluded, there were no findings made against Father and the cases were closed.

Based in large part on the failure of the Department’s investigations to lead to any findings against the Father, Mother decided to have her case against the Father dismissed. However, Father’s modification case was still active and that case went to trial in front of the same judge who heard their divorce case.

The trial had extremely favorable results for the Father. Not only was he named as a Joint Managing Conservator of the children along with Mother, but he was granted the exclusive right to determine the primary residence of the kids.

This meant that essentially he gained a tremendous amount of rights and duties over the children while also gaining the right to have the children live with him primarily instead of Mother. On top of all of this, Mother was ordered to pay Father’s attorney fees and was on the hook for child support moving forward.

An appeal by Mother concludes our story

Mother disagreed with the decisions made by the judge and she appealed the case. Let’s walk through two of the more relevant issues that Mother presented and discuss what the Court of Appeals did in response to each.

Issue No. 1

Mother argued that during the trial the Father had answered a question whereby he basically admitted to sexual abuse against their daughter. The situation was that during the trial, Father’s attorney asked him why he thought the Mother had filed the modification in first place.

Father stated that it was due to his having done something to the daughter. However, father also testified that he did not harm or abuse the daughter and as a result the Court of Appeals did not believe there to be enough evidence to support this argument. The Court of Appeals ruled that the trial court did not make an error in this regard.

Issue No. 2

Mother argued that in appointing the Father Joint Managing Conservator, the court had made an error.

The Court of Appeals noted that the trial court had laid out multiple reasons as to why it was in the best interests of the children for the father to be named a Joint Managing Conservator. As the Court of Appeals determined that there was sufficient evidence to back up these reasons, this point was overruled as well.

How parental alienation figures into our discussion is that the trial court agreed with Father’s assertions that Mother had been keeping the children from Father to an unreasonable extent and alienating them from him.

The allegations of sexual abuse were determined to be unfounded and without merit. While the children were attending counseling sessions, Mother did not follow the recommendations of the counselors. The Court of Appeals found that there was sufficient evidence to support the lower court’s decision that parental alienation did occur.

Questions about parental alienation and its effect on a family law case? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC

If you have experience parental alienation and would like to bring these actions to the attention of a court, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC today. Our office offers free of charge consultations where your situation can be addressed with one of our licensed family law attorneys. Consultations are always free of charge and are available six days a week.


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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Tomball, Texas Divorce Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it’s important to speak with one of our Tomball, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our divorce lawyers in Tomball TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Tomball, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.

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