Justia Family Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Texas
Bramlette Holland Browder v. Moree
In this lawsuit affecting the parent-child relationship, the Supreme Court denied Petitioner's motion for rehearing and disapproved the court of appeals' holding that after the trial court has denied a party's demand for a jury trial the party must also object to that ruling to preserve the issue for appellate review.Petitioner sought conservatorship and possession of Kelly, the biological daughter of Respondents, and filed a written demand for a jury trial. The trial court denied the demand. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that Petitioner failed to preserve the jury issue for appellate review because he failed to object in the trial court. The Supreme Court affirmed on other grounds, holding (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in ruling that Petitioner's jury demand was untimely; but (2) the court of appeals erred in its ruling on preservation. View "Bramlette Holland Browder v. Moree" on Justia Law
In re A.L.R.
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court terminating Father's parental rights for failure to comply with a court-ordered family service plan and knowingly engaging in criminal conduct resulting in his inability to support his child for at least two years, holding that the evidence was not sufficient to support termination.The trial court terminated Father's parental rights under Tex. Fam. Code 161.001(b)(1)(O) and (Q). The court of appeals affirmed the subsection (O) finding without reaching the question of whether evidence supported termination under subsection (Q). The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case to the court of appeals, holding that the order at issue did not support termination under subsection (O). View "In re A.L.R." on Justia Law
S.C. v. M.B.
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the district court in the underlying partition action, holding that Subchapter C of Chapter 9 of the Family Code supplements, rather than supplants, the remedial options available to former spouses who wish to divide property that went undivided in divorce.In 1987, the legislature enacted Subchapter C, which created a new option - besides partitions - for former spouses to divide property that escaped division in divorce. Subchapter C set forth a "just and right" standard for a judge to divide community property post-divorce. At issue was whether Subchapter C made that new remedy the exclusive remedy and vested exclusive jurisdiction over that remedy in the original divorce court. The Supreme Court answered the question in the negative, holding (1) if either former spouse prefers the "just and right" standard, Subchapter C supplies it; and (2) the statutory text does not impose any jurisdictional restrictions. View "S.C. v. M.B." on Justia Law
Marriage of Williams
Anthony sued Theresa for a divorce. Theresa failed to answer. The court rendered a default judgment granting the divorce and dividing the marital estate. Theresa sought a new trial contending that Anthony’s attorney lied, telling her that the final hearing had not yet been scheduled. On appeal from the denial of her motion, Theresa brought a “sufficiency of the evidence” challenge, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion in the property division. The court of appeals affirmed, finding that Theresa had not preserved that argument.The Texas Supreme Court reversed, holding that failure to file a "Craddock" motion for a new trial in the trial court does not foreclose a party’s ability to raise on appeal an evidentiary challenge to a default property division. The court noted that Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 33.1(d) specifically offers a defaulting party an appellate remedy to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence in a case tried to the bench. A motion under Craddock does not attempt to show an error in the judgment; rather, it seeks to excuse the defaulting party’s failure to answer by showing the Craddock elements. View "Marriage of Williams" on Justia Law
In re J.W.
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court terminating Father's parental rights to his child and remanded the case for a new trial, holding that it could not be discerned whether the jury terminated Father's rights on an invalid ground.The jury in this case ultimately found by clear and convincing evidence that both parents' rights to their child should be terminated, and the trial court rendered a final order of termination. The court of appeals affirmed as to both parents. Father appealed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the jury reasonably could have formed a firm belief or conviction that Father failed to maintain a safe and stable home environment as required by his service plan; (2) legally sufficient evidence supported the jury's best-interest finding; but (3) the trial court erred in submitting to the jury an invalid ground for termination of Father's rights, and it could not be determined whether the jury based its verdict on an improperly submitted termination ground. View "In re J.W." on Justia Law
Texas Department of Family & Protective Services v. N.J.
In this termination of parental rights case the Supreme Court granted in part the motion to dismiss an appeal from the reversal of a termination of parental rights decree, holding that the case was moot.N.J. gave birth when she was fifteen. Three months later, the Department of Family and Protective Services began termination proceedings against N.J. After a trial, the jury returned a verdict terminating N.J.'s parental rights. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the trial court lacked personal jurisdiction over N.J. The Department petitioned for review. After the Supreme Court granted the petition the Department moved to dismiss, explaining that N.J. had executed an affidavit of voluntary relinquishment of her parental rights more than one year earlier after she had reached the age of majority. The Supreme Court dismissed the appealed portion of the case, holding that the case was moot in light of N.J.'s decision to voluntarily relinquish her parental rights. View "Texas Department of Family & Protective Services v. N.J." on Justia Law
Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson
The Supreme Court accepted a certified question from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit by answering that Texas law does not authorize certain state officials to directly or indirectly enforce the state's new abortion restriction requirements.Plaintiffs, who provided and funded abortions and support for women who obtain them in Texas, requested a declaration that Senate Bill 8, the "Texas Heartbeat Act," Tex. Health & Safety Code 171.201-.212, unconstitutionally restricted their rights and injunction prohibiting Defendants, state agency executives, from enforcing the Act's requirements. After a remand, the Fifth Circuit certified a question to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered answered that Texas law does not grant the state agency executives named as defendants any authority to enforce the Act's requirements, either directly or indirectly. View "Whole Woman's Health v. Jackson" on Justia Law
In re M.P.
The Supreme Court held that remand is not the proper remedy for a successful factual-sufficiency challenge to Tex. Fam. Code 161.006(b)(1)(D) and (E) when termination is otherwise valid on another predicate ground.The trial court terminated Father's parental rights, basing its termination on three predicate grounds and finding that termination was in the child's best interest. The court of appeals affirmed termination under subsection 161.001(b)(1)(O) for failure to comply with the service. Because a predicate ground for termination under (M) is prior termination for endangerment under (D) or (E), however, the court of appeals examined the sufficiency of the evidence and held that the evidence for termination under subsections (D) and (E) was not factually sufficient. The court then remanded the case for a new trial on (D) and (E). The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the court of appeals erred in remanding the case for a new trial on the factually insufficient predicate grounds. View "In re M.P." on Justia Law
In re C.L.E.E.G.
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court terminating Father's parental rights to Child, holding that Father's evidence that he would be paroled in the near future was speculative.Child was born while Father was in prison. When Child was nineteen months old the trial court terminated Father's parental rights, finding that he would remain incarcerated and unable to care for Child for at least two years from the date the petition was filed. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the Department of Family and Protective Services failed to negate Father's testimony that he would be paroled "in the near future." The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals impermissibly substituted its own judgment for the trial court's judgment and erred by failing to defer to the trial court's assessment of the witnesses' credibility. View "In re C.L.E.E.G." on Justia Law
In re Interest of D.T.
In this termination of parental rights action the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals rejecting Mother's ineffective assistance of counsel claim, holding that Mother's ineffective assistance claim failed under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984).The State sought termination of Mother's parental rights to her child. The trial court found that Mother was indigent and appointed counsel to represent her. After the jury found that grounds existed for termination and that termination was in the child's best interest Mother's retained counsel filed a notice of appeal. Thereafter, the retained counsel was suspended from the practice of law. The trial court then appointed Mother's appellate counsel. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that Mother could not raise an ineffective assistance of counsel challenge because her counsel was retained rather than appointed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) parents in government-initiated suits to terminate the parent-child relationship who retain counsel of their choosing may also challenge their counsel's performance by asserting an ineffective assistance claim; but (2) Mother's ineffective assistance claim failed under Strickland. View "In re Interest of D.T." on Justia Law