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Abbott, Cruz weigh in on Dallas County custody battle involving gender identity of 7-year-old

Judge admonishes father for placing public attention of story over the privacy of his children

DALLAS — A couple's divorce case in Dallas County recently ended up as a bitter child custody dispute over the gender expression of their 7-year-old child.

It is a case that got the attention of both Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The family judge in this case said she restricted public access to the courtroom on Thursday over threats received directed at the mother for allowing their 7-year-old child to present as female. 

The father opposes his child using a female name and decided last year to take the story public, alleging the child would be forced into gender reassignment surgery.

WFAA is not naming the child or the parents to help protect the child’s identity.

The father’s claims were picked up by conservative media outlets and then shared by Abbott and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz on social media on Wednesday.

Cruz tweeted: “The state of Texas should protect this child’s right to choose.” 

[Editor's note: We normally make it a point to link to important tweets, but this tweet mentions the child's name, so we have not linked to it.]

Dallas County Judge Kim Cooks of the 255th Family District Court agreed.

In awarding joint custody Thursday, Cooks ordered both parents would be required to agree to any future medical procedures for the child.

In an 11-1 decision earlier this week, a jury decided the mother should be the sole conservator for the child and their twin brother.

Cooks instead maintained the joint custody arrangement first established in the 2016 divorce decree, but not before admonishing the father for spreading misinformation, namely that his child would be forced into gender reassignment surgery or placed on hormones before puberty.

“No Texas judge or court has ordered the chemical castration, puberty blockers, hormone blockers or any transgender reassignment surgery on this child to become a female,” Cooks said.

Cooks also said the father placed the public attention the story would receive over the privacy of his children.

“The court finds that the father finds comfort in public controversy and attention surrounded by his use of unfounded facts and is thus motivated by financial gain of approximately $139,000 dollars to which he has received at the cost of the protection and privacy of his children,” Cooks said from the bench.

The judge closed by preventing the father from making any further statements about the custody dispute, and ordered family counseling for the potential damage caused to the 7-year-old by making this situation public.

After the ruling, Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Mateer sent a three-page letter to the acting commissioner of the Texas Department of Family Services to investigate possible child abuse claims.

“I trust that the DFPS will act immediately upon our request, conduct a thorough investigation, and protect this child,” the statement said.

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