Texas Supreme Court returns custody case between lesbian parent and partner to Dallas District Court for trial

The rights of a lesbian partner to participate in parenting her former partner’s child will be set for trial in the 302nd Judicial District Court.  After the Texas Supreme Court declined to hear the biological parent’s appeal challenging the partner’s right to sue for access to the child, the Dallas Court of Appeals returned the case to the trial court. 

Kristie Vowels and Tracy Scourfield were a couple for more than four years and decided together to have a child, conceived by Scourfield by artificial insemination.  A year after the child’s birth, the couple broke up and Scourfield moved out of Vowels’ home with the child.  Vowels continued to have contact with the child by agreement on a schedule similar to that of divorced heterosexual parents.  Following a disagreement between Scourfield and Vowels, Scourfield denied Vowels access to the child, resulting in Vowels filing suit for court-ordered access to the child.

A three-judge panel of the Dallas Court of Appeal issued a controversial ruling in December 2009 that Vowels had the right to seek access to the child based on a law that provides a person with the right to sue for such rights after she has had actual care, control and possession of the child for at least 90-days prior to filing the suit.  Vowels’ access by agreement with Scourfield was deemed to be sufficient to meet the requirements of the statute.

Scourfield sought to have the Texas Supreme Court overturn the decision of the Dallas Court of Appeals.  The Texas Supreme Court declined to hear the case on May 28, 2010.  Scourfield had a certain timeframe following the Texas Supreme Court’s denial to request reconsideration of that ruling.  Because she did not, the Texas Supreme Court sent the case back to the Dallas Court of Appeals which, in turn, returned the case to the Dallas district court for trial.

“Our fight is not finished, but only beginning,” saidMichelle May O’Neil, Dallas family law attorney representing Vowels.  “We have to return to the district court and show the judge why it is in the best interest of the child that Ms. Vowels have access to the child.”

“I have been waiting for so long just to get someone to listen to why I should be involved in my child’s life,” said Vowels.  “I’m just grateful that, after so long, I will finally be given that chance.”

The trial will be held in front of Judge Tena Callahan, who ruled in October of 2009 that two gay men, legally married in Massachusets in 2006, had the right to seek divorce in a Texas court.  That case remains pending on appeal.

See the original opinion in In Re M.K.S. (pdf version).

See my prior posts Dallas Divorce Lawyer Quoted by Dallas Voice Newspaper and Green Light for Suit for Access to Child by Lesbian Nonparent

 

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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, 2011-2018, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2014-2018, Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2016 and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.