Information for Child Custody Matters
The Everman Independent School District is committed to partnering with parents to provide the best overall educational experience for their student(s). When both parents are in agreement about educational decisions, confusion and disputes are typically not common. However, with the increase of the non-traditional family structure and battles over parental rights, school officials are sometimes faced with having to decide which adults in a student’s life have legal rights to (1) enroll a student, (2) access the student’s school records, (3) pick up the student from school, (4) withdraw the student and other issues. This reference is provided as a general informational guide to handling child custody matters in Everman ISD.
Disclaimer: The information contained herein is for informational purposes only as a service to the public, and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel, nor does it constitute advertising or a solicitation.
PARENTS VS. NON-PARENTS
In general, when there is no court order, a parent has a greater right to possession of a child than a non-parent. It does not matter whether the nonparent is a grandparent, step-parent, assumed father, aunt, other relative or family friend, and may not even matter whether the other parent has given the non-parent permission to have possession of the child. Obviously, this could lead to some very unpleasant events when one parent leaves a child with a non-parent, and the other parent shows up to the school and demands to take the child.
Please do not ask the school district to mediate or resolve any dispute in regard to this civil matter. If there is no legal order on file that outlines everyone’s rights and responsibilities, the district will abide by the rights outlined in the Texas Family Code §153.071. If there is a dispute among parents and non-parents, it may be best to consult legal counsel for assistance.
Grandparents Rights -
The relationship between children and their grandparents is important and generally may be in the best interest of the children. Historically in Texas, Grandparents have stepped in to fill the void in care and nurturing caused by divorce separation, drug and alcohol abuse, or mental illness of the biological parents. Grandparents can play an important and supporting role to promote stability in the lives of children whose families are in deep conflict. However, without a legal court order signed by a judge, grandparent’s rights are limited in gaining access to or making decisions on behalf of their grandchildren.
Thus, as a grandparent your "possession and access" (visitation and custody) rights are limited. In other words, grandparents do not have a constitutional right to see their grandchildren.
If the child is in immediate danger, you should call 911 or child protective services. Otherwise, it is best to try to work things out with your family members. If you are cannot agree, then you should talk to an attorney.
PARENTAL RIGHTS (in general, when there is no court order)
As a general presumption, all parents (whether biological or adopted) and legal guardians (legal guardianship as established by a court order) EISD will recognize and honor the rights outlined in the Texas Family Code §153.071, as they exist for both parents unless restricted, directed otherwise by court order or a lawful directive.
- to receive information from any other conservator concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child;
- to confer with the other parent to the extent possible before making a decision concerning health, education and welfare of the child; of access to medical, dental, psychological, and educational records of the child;
- to consult a physician, dentist, or psychologist of the child;
- to consult with school officials concerning the child’s welfare and educational status, including school activities;
- to attend school activities;
- to be designated on the child’s records as a person to be notified in case of an emergency;
- to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment during an emergency involving an immediate danger to the health and safety of the child, and
- to manage the estate of the child to the extent that has been created by the parent or parent’s family.
*Note: Any court with appropriate jurisdiction has the authority to enter an order regarding custody of a child that is binding on the parties to the proceeding and enforceable throughout the United States through the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.
LEGAL AUTHORITY TO MAKE EDUCATION DECISIONS
Parents who are married and “separated” or unmarried parents who are the biological parents of the child/children in but who have not filed for divorce in a court of proper jurisdiction, retain equal rights, privileges, duties, and power until some legal recourse is sought by one of the parents and a court enters an order signed by a judge specifying the parental rights. Prior to making any educational decisions related to a student, a parent and/or legal guardian must first establish the parent-child relationship that exists providing two most common documents used to establish this relationship, a birth certificate or a legal court order.
A birth certificate is one form of documentation used to establish a parent-child relationship. If a person can produce a valid birth certificate for the student and identify him or herself via a government-issued photo id as the named mother or father on the birth certificate, EISD recognizes he or she has the same rights as any other parent, even if the child is not living with them. The birth certificate is controlling, unless the school has on record a copy of a court order that either modifies the parent’s rights or terminates them completely, in which case the court order governs.
In situations where only one parent is on the child’s birth certificate, only that parent can make educational decisions or in certain instances, can authorize another individual to make educational decisions regarding the child. A person claiming to be the biological parent of a child, but who is not on the birth certificate is not entitled to either enroll or withdraw the child in the absence of a signed legal order. A person claiming to be a parent or legal guardian without recognized rights should establish his or her parental rights through the family court system.
Court Order/Legal Decree
A legal court order may also establish a parent-child relationship exists in order to make educational decisions regarding a child. An order is the direction or mandate of a judge or a court directing that something be done or that there is prohibition against some act. It is important to understand, an order is NOT a letter written by an attorney, a CPS child safety plan or a notification of an impending lawsuit or petition to the court to modify the parent-child relationship. While a petition is a formal written request to a court for a legal order of the court, it alone is not an actual order and is not controlling for the purposes of educational decisions.
Divorce Decree - Many times, the parent-child relationship is determined in a divorce decree. A divorce decree, if there are children of the marriage, must include a decision by the court regarding custody of the child/children. Generally, the divorce decree is combined with a custody order that identifies the child, establishes the primary residence of the child and the circumstances under which the parent or other person in parental relation may have access to the child. It may also include an order of support. The Everman ISD is bound by the laws of the State of Texas to honor these decrees regardless of either of the parent’s wishes if they vary from the divorce decree.
Legal Guardianship - Courts may also use an order to establish legal guardianship of student. A guardianship is a legal order that gives someone other than a child's parents (i.e. grandparents, older siblings, aunts or uncles) the right to make child care decisions and take care of the child. Although a legal guardianship does not terminate a parent's custody rights, it does grant the guardian many of the same rights and responsibilities of a parent in raising and caring for a child, including educational decisions. Again, only a court can grant an individual guardianship rights for a child.
COMPLIANCE WITH COURT ORDERS
At the time of enrollment, a copy of the most current signed divorce decree or other legal court order establishing the rights of each parent shall be provided to the campus principal. Any modifications to those orders shall be provided immediately upon issuance by the Court. Campus personnel will make their best efforts to interpret and comply with the terms of the orders affecting the parent child relationship. Again, the District is bound by the laws of the State of Texas to honor these decrees regardless of a parent’s wishes.Please do not ask school personnel to act inconsistent with a court order. It is the parent’s responsibility to seek modification of existing court orders when terms and conditions warrant. While it is commendable to provide the district with information concerning a petition, a petition is not a legal court order and therefore, not a controlling document. Without a signed court order, the district may not modify the rights of one or either parent based on another’s wishes.
The school may receive a copy of a legal protective order that prevents access to a child. A protective order is “any order or decree of a court whose purpose is to protect a person from further harassment or service of process or discovery.” If there is a protective order, the school should obtain a copy of the order from the student’s parent or legal guardian. The school principal must ensure that the school adheres to the terms of the protective order. The order may restrict a person from going within a certain number of feet of a childcare facility or school attended by a protected person (student). The order may also prohibit the release of certain information including the student’s address and the name of the school the student is attending. Certain information (i.e. home address, telephone number, and name of the school the student attends) is generally considered public information. When the school receives a copy of a protective order, the principal will work with office staff to ensure that the student's file is flagged for privacy on the database so that the information is not released in violation of the protective order.
Just as safety is paramount to you as parents, the safety and well-being of students is also Everman ISD’s number one concern. The district reserves the right to refuse to release a student and/or to contact law enforcement if at any time the circumstances reflect a health or safety concern for the child. The district also reserves the right to ban any person who causes a disruption or has no legitimate purpose for being on campus.
If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact the Office of Student Services to schedule an appointment at 817-568-3500.
Note: The Everman Independent School District does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, age, marital status or handicapping condition in its programs, services, activities, or employment practices as required by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended; and the Age Discrimination Act of 1975. EISD is committed to providing a free and appropriate public education for all students.