Justia Family Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Texas
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
In re J.J.R.S.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court naming Aunt and Uncle managing conservators of parents' two children, naming Mother and Father possessory conservators, and stating that, in the absence of mutual agreement, Mother could have supervised visitation with the children at the discretion of the managing conservator, holding that there was no error.In affirming, the court of appeals determined that the evidence was sufficient to support the terms of the visitation order, that the terms of the order were permissible upon a finding that they were in the best interest of the children, and denying Mother's constitutional challenge to Tex. Fam. Code 262.201(o). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) because the trial court could have reasonably concluded that a restriction on Mother's right of access was in the children's best interest, there was not abuse of discretion; and (2) Mother's constitutional challenges were rendered moot by the trial court's issuance of a final order. View "In re J.J.R.S." on Justia Law
In re J.F.-G.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court terminating Father's parental rights to his daughter, Julie, holding that the evidence supported the trial court's finding that Father engaged in conduct that endangered Julie's physical or emotional well-being.Julie was an infant when Father reported to prison. Father emerged from prison when Julie was an adolescent and living with a foster family with her half-sisters. After a hearing, the trial court found by clear and convincing evidence that the State had met its burden of proof to terminate Father's parental rights to Julie on the ground that Father had engaged in conduct or knowingly placed Julie with persons who engaged in conduct that endangered the physical or emotional well-being of Julie. The court further found that termination of Father's parental rights was in Julie's best interest. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the evidence supported the trial court's findings and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in terminating Father's parental rights. View "In re J.F.-G." on Justia Law
In re G.X.H.
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court terminating Parents' parental rights to their two children, holding that the trial court remained vested with jurisdiction over the suit when it entered the final decree.In their appeal, Parents argued that the trial court's final decree terminating their parental rights was void because the trial on the merits did not commence before the dismissal date and because Tex. Fam. Code 263.401 divested the trial court of jurisdiction before the final degree was signed. The court of appeals held that the final decree was void because the trial court did not timely commence trial on the merits, thus stripping the court of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, under the facts and circumstances of this case, the trial court had jurisdiction when it entered the final decree. View "In re G.X.H." on Justia Law
In re Marriage of Sandoval
In this appeal of a no-answer default judgment in a divorce case the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the trial court's judgment, holding that the trial court erred in denying Husband's motion for new trial because the content of Husband's affidavit was sufficient to satisfy the standard set forth under Craddock v. Sunshine Bus Lines, Inc., 133 S.W.2d 124 (Tex. 1939).After Husband defaulted, he filed a motion for new trial, arguing that equitable grounds existed under the Craddock standard and that legal grounds existed regarding improper service or notice of suit. The trial court sustained a hearsay objection to Husband's affidavit and other documents filed with his motion and then denied the new trial. The appellant court affirmed, concluding that formal defects rendered the affidavit inadmissible as sworn testimony, and therefore, Husband possessed insufficient proof of the required elements of Craddock. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Husband's affidavit was sufficient to satisfy the Craddock standard for obtaining a new trial; (2) the affidavit was not based on hearsay; and (3) because no formal defects were raised in the trial court, the appellate court erred in affirming based on a formal defect that was not preserved for review. View "In re Marriage of Sandoval" on Justia Law