The closing chapter was written on a long Dallas Texas child custody battle by Kristine Vowels, a non-biological lesbian mother of her former partner’s daughter, on October 8, 2010.  After 3 1/2 years of battling just to have the right to sue for access to the child — called standing — Kristie decided to end her fight. 

In her words contained in the Vowels’ Notice of Nonsuit filed in the M.K.S. suit in the Dallas County District Family Court, Kristie said:

"After three and a half years of contested litigation, in the interest of the child she will always consider to be her daughter regardless of the legal definition, KRISTINE VOWELS has decided she can no longer prosecute this suit against TRACY SCOURFIELD. Throughout this process, KRISTINE VOWELS’ love for her daughter endures. This decision neither changes nor lessens the bond she feels for her daughter or her desire to someday have a relationship with her.

"This is a decision borne purely from KRISTINE VOWELS love for her daughter. Although suffering immeasurable pain at the thought that she may never see her little girl again, KRISTINE VOWELS wants her daughter to know this story, to know that she fought for her, and to know that in the end, when one has to decide if it is more important to be right or to be happy, KRISTINE VOWELS chose her daughter’s happiness and quality of life over her own happiness – a true gesture of the selfless love that a parent has for their child.

"Faith, hope, and love for the little girl she has known as her daughter since before she was born compelled KRISTINE VOWELS to file this lawsuit on May 23, 2007. This love sustained KRISTINE VOWELS through three-and-a-half years of contested litigation and appeals, on a roller coaster of defeat and then victory in the Fifth Court of Appeals, through the Texas Supreme Court, and then back to this Court again, with the acknowledged right of standing to pursue her suit under the Texas Family Code. It was her hope that allowed KRISTINE VOWELS to withstand the barage of claims that she was not nor would she ever be a parent to her little girl because the laws of our State would never recognize her legal right to fight for a chance to have a relationship with her daughter. It was her faith that allowed the dream of someday holding her daughter in her arms, hearing her laugh, and seeing her smile, to survive in KRISTINE VOWELS despite the fact that she was not allowed to see or even speak to her little girl since the day she was ripped away forever on April 25, 2007.

"The same faith, hope and love that began and sustained this case and that leads KRISTINE VOWELS, after much soul searching and prayer, to make the ultimate sacrifice and end this lawsuit. Today, on October 8, 2010, out of love for her daughter and with hope and faith in the woman she will grow to become, KRISTINE VOWELS asks this Court to grant her request to nonsuit this cause, and allow the little girl affected to wake up tomorrow in a home no longer shadowed by the unrest and uncertainty of pending litigation."

This case has set a very important precedent in LGBT gay parenting child custody cases, especially because it was decided by the court of appeals sitting in Dallas Texas, widely received in Texas as the most conservative of the elected courts.  For future litigation in Dallas and around the area, Vowels’ case will make the journey a little easier.  But, sometimes the battle overwhelms the war.  Sometimes, even in litigation, a person must ask, "would I rather be right or be happy?"  or "would I rather by right or my child be happy?"  It is based on this very question that Kristine Vowels made this decision to end her battle. 

The Dallas Voice ran a series of 4 articles over the years, detailing Vowels efforts to gain access to her daughter:

October 15, 2010 Vowels Drops 3 1/2-year Custody Fight  or read the pdf version

May 8, 2008 Lesbian Moms in Custody Battle

December 9, 2009 Appeals Court Sends Lesbian Custody Case To Trial

August 5, 2010 Vowels Custody Case Returned to Trial Court for Hearing

Click this link For more information on same-sex custody litigation in Texas

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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.