In In re J.S.P., 278 S.W.3d 414 (Tex. App.--San Antonio 2008, no pet.) a father appealed from the trial court's modification of the parent-child relationship. Id. at 416-17.
He had been injured in an accident and suffered a closed-head injury. Id. at 417.
Several years after J.S.P.'s birth, J.S.P's maternal grandmother, who was also J.S.P.'s mother's legal guardian, brought a suit affecting the parent-child relationship.
The maternal grandmother was appointed sole managing conservator of J.S.P., and J.S.P.'s father was permitted visitation supervised by the maternal grandmother. Id.
J.S.P.'s father filed a petition to modify the parent-child relationship. Id. He requested that he be appointed a joint managing conservator of the child, that he be given the exclusive right to designate J.S.P's primary residence, and that a standard possession order be entered. Id.
Temporary orders were signed, and J.S.P.'s father was granted supervised visitations on Wednesday evenings and on Saturdays. J.S.P.'s father was appointed managing conservator, along with J.S.P.'s maternal grandmother who retained the exclusive right to designate J.S.P.'s primary residence. The trial court continued the same visitation schedule as set forth in the temporary orders.
The trial court also ordered a child psychologist to work with J.S.P.'s father to develop a program to work towards unsupervised periods of possession, and the trial court ordered that the doctor would determine when it was appropriate for a standard possession order to be entered. Id.
J.S.P.'s father challenged the trial court's delegation of authority to a third party, a mental health professional. Id. at 418.
The San Antonio Court of Appeals held that "using a neutral third party, such as a mental health professional, to accomplish the expansion of J.S.P.'s father's possession rights may be necessary in a complex family law situation such as this, where the trial court is not in the best position to determine when a parent is capable of exercising unsupervised periods of possession." Id. at 422.
The Court "declined to impose a blanket prohibition on a trial court's ability to appoint a third party to assist in deciding specific issues related to possession and access" and explained that "there are limited circumstances . . . where delegation of some authority to a third party may be necessary to both protect the interest of the child and comply with the Family Code's mandate to minimize, when possible, the restrictions placed on a parent's right to possession of and access to his child." Id.