Corinth residents Ron and Sherry Palmer aren’t unfamiliar with the emotions surrounding divorced families. Both were married previously before meeting and falling in love.
But it was during those rough times that the two had separate yet similar eye-opening experiences that years later would lead them to filing an injunction, challenging the state of Texas in regard to children of divorced parents.
According to the Palmers, fit parents should not be required to fight over the custody of their children. They point out that arguments in courts before judges turn hostile not because two parents are unfit to care for their child separately but because neither wants to lose their child yet must fight with one another before a judge, who decides which parent gets the child.
The two have an open case before the Federal District Court challenging the constitutionality of the Texas Family Code and have filed their brief for summary judgment. In it, the Palmers state that “a constitutional divorce, by default, means both parents start out as equals with equal rights and do not have to beg a judge for rights they already have.” They argue that less fighting in court would protect children of divorce from the negative repercussions that come with high profile arguing. They also say that children will likely have less anxiety and stress if they do not have to choose a parent but can instead be with both equally.
According to the Palmers, the Texas Family Code does three things considered unconstitutional: it authorizes state judges to infringe on the rights of parents and their children based on the judge’s opinion, it authorizes a judge to order one parent to pay child support to another parent and that parent is subject to criminal liability if they do not or cannot pay, and it creates two unequal classes of parent and child based on the marital status of the parents.
Their goal is simple: keep Texas state judges from making orders that violate the constitutional rights of parents and children. Ron Palmer argued that the government cannot make decisions on how a couple must go about their marriage yet are making decisions that are forced upon parents when couples divorce. They describe it as a similar argument used by same-sex marriage advocates that led to the Supreme Court ruling that same-sex marriage is legal. They argue it’s the same fundamental right for a human being, in this case, a right of being a parent.
“They [divorced people] are being denied the same rights that are applied to married parents,” Sherry Palmer said. “Judges need to accept that there can still be loving, good parents regardless of their [marital] relationship.”
Ron Palmer discussed how judges often argue that they are making decisions based on a child’s best interest. Palmer described how he and his ex wife do not get along but have had equal shared custody of their child since 2007. He said their child is well-adjusted, gets along well with others and does well in school. He argued that while he and his ex wife may not get along with each other, they can both decide on what is in the best interest of their child during their time with their child.
“Judges will say ‘Well the two of you can’t get along so we have to decide,’” Palmer said. “We can’t get past these biases that all of a sudden someone gets divorced and a judge has to decide on the child’s situation.”
“We have this culture that says it’s OK for parents to have equal custody as long as the two get along,” Sherry Palmer said. “[Judges] should not be holding a divorce parent to a different standard than married parents.”
Both the Palmers said their main opposition has been family law foundations, attorneys and some judges, primarily because if they win the injunction, the Texas Family Code could possibly go away and be replaced with a constitutional presumption of 50/50 rights, meaning there is much less need for attorneys and judges.
“What happens when rights are respected and parents have equal rights? A huge number of judges may not have work,” Ron Palmer said.
They both agree that the argument is meant for fit parents that are mentally and physically capable of caring for their children. They don’t condone children be subjected to a home environment in which one parent is abusive or neglectful. Their argument is primarily in part on those that are fit parents that have the ability to make decisions for their children. They said they run into many parents who are scared of going through divorce out of fear they may lose their child. The Palmers say that no fit, capable parent should have that fear.
The two have joined alongside other advocacy groups such as the Father’s Rights Movement of Texas and are the driving force behind fixfamilycourts.com. They collaborated and released two books called “Protecting Parent-Child Bonds: The 28th Amendment” and another called “Not in the Child’s Best Interest.” The Palmers expect a decision on their injunction to be made sometime after April.