Attorney General Paxton filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court of Texas to ensure appropriate custody decisions are made on behalf of Texas children and to ensure that Texas appellate courts review legal judgments correctly and uniformly.
The case involves a determination of whether four children should live primarily with their mother or with their father. In these cases, among other considerations, a pertinent factor is “the desires of the child.” The Texas Family Code states that trial courts “shall” interview a child who is at least twelve years old to determine the child’s wishes. The couple’s oldest child was twelve years old, but the trial court failed to conduct an in camera interview, despite the mother’s request.
The Dallas-based Fifth Court of Appeals recognized that the trial court was wrong to refuse to interview the child, but the Court misapplied the harmless-error doctrine and incorrectly ruled that the failure to conduct an in camera interview did not cause any harm.
The Supreme Court of Texas should reverse the court of appeals’ judgment, affirm the rights of children to have their voices heard in these sensitive matters, and ensure that the harmless-error doctrine is uniformly applied throughout Texas’s legal system.
The amicus brief states: “The State agrees with Petitioner that the trial court erred. And because the trial court’s error means the substance and significance of M.N.’s in camera interview is unknown, the error prevents the appellate courts from assessing whether the error likely affected the judgment—the best-interests determination. In finding the error harmless, the court of appeals misapplied the harmless-error doctrine. Its judgment should be reversed.”
To read the full amicus brief, click here.