The Texas Supreme Court unanimously awarded custody of a 5-year-old girl to her biological father rather than a man who was engaged to marry her now-deceased mother.
Chris Clay has been fighting for custody of his daughter for two years since her mother died in a car accident in 2018. The Denton County father’s predicament drew national attention as family and homeschool advocacy groups took up his cause to protect parental rights in custody disputes involving non-parents. The Texas Home School Coalition hired a public relations firm and started a social media campaign on behalf of Clay and his daughter called #LetHerStay.
The court ruled on June 26 that since Clay proved himself a fit parent, his daughter’s best interests were to remain in his sole custody. Justices said he has a fundamental right to make decisions concerning her care. The decision reversed a Denton County trial court judge’s order granting partial custody to the deceased mother’s fiancé.
The Texas Home School Coalition called the ruling “the most significant parental rights case in Texas history.” Holly Draper, an attorney representing Clay, called the ruling “a huge win for all parents in Texas.” —M.J.
A former Arizona county assessor pleaded guilty on June 24 to charges related to a fraudulent adoption scheme that involved paying pregnant women from the Marshall Islands up to $10,000 to travel to the United States illegally to give up their babies for adoption.
Paul D. Petersen of Mesa, Ariz., a private adoption lawyer in Utah and Arizona and a former elected official in Maricopa County, faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for a federal human smuggling conspiracy charge. The federal case against him centers on the illegal travel of four Marshallese women, but he has previously pleaded guilty to state charges related to 40 expectant mothers. Adoptive parents paid him as much as $30,000 for his role as a “legal facilitator,” while the birth mothers received up to $10,000, according to federal prosecutors.
While rare, Petersen’s actions are “deeply troubling and harmful,” said Ryan Hanlon, vice president of education, research, and constituent services at the National Council for Adoption.
“The Petersen case underscores the importance of adoption services being transparent, ethical, and compliant with state and federal laws,” Hanlon said. After Petersen’s arrest on the state charges, the council issued new guidelines for expectant and prospective parents to help them detect fraud. —M.J.
Fathers who spend time engaging in physical play with their children inadvertently help them control their behavior and emotions later in life, according to a new study. Research from Cambridge University and the Lego Foundation looked into how parents play with children up until age 3 and its effect on their lives.
They concluded that fathers tend to engage in more activities like wrestling, tickling, chasing, and piggyback rides, which help children’s ability to control their feelings.
“It’s a safe environment in which children can practice how to respond,” Paul Ramchandani, one of the study’s authors, told The Guardian. “If they react the wrong way … it’s not the end of the world, and next time they might remember to behave differently.” —M.J.