Articles Posted in Texas Supreme Court

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The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) removed a child from the custody of his Mother. After DFPS decided not to seek termination of Mother’s rights, the child’s Foster Parents filed suit, seeking appointment as the child’s joint managing conservators. After a jury trial, the trial court appointed the Foster Parents as the child’s sole managing conservators. The court of appeals reversed and awarded Mother managing conservatorship, concluding that the evidence was legally insufficient to support the jury’s finding that Mother’s appointment as the child’s conservator would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because the court of appeals did not reach the question of whether the evidence was factually - as opposed to legally - sufficient to support the verdict, the case must be remanded for factual sufficiency review. View "Danet v. Bhan" on Justia Law

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The trial court terminated Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to their three children on endangerment grounds and found that termination was in the children’s best interests. Father appealed the judgment. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that there was insufficient evidence to support the endangerment grounds. The Department of Family and Protective Services appealed, arguing that the court of appeals’ factual sufficiency review of the evidence contained several legal flaws. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals applied the appropriate standard of review, reviewed all the evidence, and explained its insufficiency. View "In re S.M.R." on Justia Law

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In 2008, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) filed suit to terminate Father’s parental rights to his two children. Two trials resulted in the termination of Father’s parental rights. In both cases, the court of appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial on the grounds that there was factually insufficient evidence of endangerment. DFPS and intervenors filed motions for en banc reconsideration. The court of appeals granted the motion and affirmed the termination of Father’s parental rights, finding the evidence of endangerment factually sufficient to support termination. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals, in affirming the termination, adhered to the proper standard for conducting a factual sufficiency review. View "In re A.B." on Justia Law

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The trial court terminated Mother’s parental rights to her daughter and appointed as sole managing conservator the Department of Family and Protective Services. Mother appealed, contending that the evidence was insufficient to establish removal for “abuse or neglect” of her daughter under Tex. Fam. Code Ann. 262 and to terminate her parental rights in the child’s best interest. The court of appeals (1) upheld the Department’s appointment as sole managing conservator, but (2) reversed the termination judgment, holding that the evidence was legally insufficient to establish that the child was removed for “abuse or neglect” under chapter 262. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, in light of the Court’s recent decision in In re E.C.R., the child in this case was removed for abuse or neglect under chapter 262. Remanded. View "In re K.N.D." on Justia Law

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Mother and Father divorced pursuant to a decree that named Mother as the parent with the exclusive right to designate the parties' children's primary residence and ordered Father to pay child support. Three years later, Father sought to modify the decree by requesting that the trial court name him as the parent with the exclusive right to designate the children's primary residence. Mother filed a countersuit requesting that the court increase Father's monthly child support obligation and reduce Father's periods of possession. The trial court denied Father's requests for modification and granted relief to Mother. Additionally, the trial court ordered Father to pay Mother's attorneys' fees as additional child support. The court of appeals affirmed in part, concluding that the Family Code grants trial courts authority to order a parent to pay attorney's fees for legal services benefitting the children as additional child support in non-enforcement modification suits. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court lacked the discretion to characterize Mother's attorney's fees as necessaries and as part of Father's child support obligation. View "Tucker v. Thomas" on Justia Law

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After the Department of Family and Protective Services placed two children with Foster Parents, Mother relinquished her parental rights and Father was arrested and deported to Mexico. The trial judge entered an order in a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship transferring possession of the two children to Father. Foster Parents sought a writ of mandamus directing the trial judge to set aside the order, asserting that the trial court abused its discretion by transferring possession. The Supreme Court abated the proceedings in the Court because the trial judge who signed the order recused from the case. The Court then directed the new trial judge presiding over the case to consider the matters underlying the challenged order and determine whether the order should remain in effect, be modified or be set aside, and then to render its own order accordingly. View "In re Blevins" on Justia Law

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Stephanie Lee and Benjamin Redus were the parents and joint managing conservators of their minor daughter. A 2007 order adjudicating parentage gave Stephanie the exclusive right to designate the child's primary residence. Benjamin sought to modify that order. The parties executed a mediated settlement agreement (MSA) modifying the 2007 order. Stephanie moved to enter judgment on the MSA, but Benjamin withdrew his consent to the MSA, arguing that it was not in the best interest of the child. The district court refused to enter judgment on the MSA, concluding that it was not in the best interest of the child. Stephanie unsuccessfully petitioned the court of appeals for a writ of mandamus ordering the trial court to enter judgment on the MSA. The Supreme Court conditionally granted the writ of mandamus, holding (1) a trial court may not deny a motion to enter judgment on a properly executed MSA on the grounds that the MSA was not in a child's best interest; and (2) because the MSA in this case met the Family Code's requirements for a binding agreement, the trial court abused its discretion by denying the motion to enter judgment on the MSA. View "In re Lee" on Justia Law

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Tara and Gregory were granted a divorce on October 18, 2010 after a jury trial. On December 22, 2010, the trial court signed a second judgment. Tara filed her notice of appeal seventy-five days after the trial court's second judgment. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal as untimely. However, Tara had timely filed a motion to modify the first judgment, and the trial court's second judgment did not grant all the relief Tara requested. Tara appealed the order dismissing her appeal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals erred in dismissing the appeal because the motion to modify operated to extend the appellate timetable after the second judgment, and therefore, the notice of appeal was timely. Remanded. View "Brighton v. Koss" on Justia Law

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When Father and Mother divorced, the divorce decree awarded Mother sole physical custody of Child and ordered Father to pay monthly child support. Years later, Mother and Father agreed Father's support obligation would cease if he voluntarily relinquished his parental rights. Father signed the necessary paperwork, but Mother's attorney never filed it in court. Nine years later, Father received notice from the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) that he had failed to comply with the child support order and owed $81,450 in arrearages. Father denied that he owed the money, claiming that Mother, and thus the OAG, was estopped from pursuing child support payments because Mother led him to believe his parental rights had been terminated years earlier. The trial court rejected Father's estoppel defense and ordered him to pay arrearages. The court of appeals reversed and instructed the trial court to conduct a hearing on Father's estoppel defense. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that estoppel is not a defense to a child support enforcement proceeding. View "Office of Attorney Gen. v. Scholer" on Justia Law

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Mother was seen punching and dragging her four-year-old daughter (Daughter) by her ponytail down the street. Mother's eight-month-old son (Son) was not present during the incident. The police arrested Mother, who later pleaded guilty to bodily injury to a child. The Department of Family and Protective Services took possession of Son under Tex. Fam. Code Ann. 262.104 because he faced a "continuing danger to his physical health or safety" if returned to Mother. Later, the trial court terminated Mother's parental rights to Son under Tex. Fam. Code Ann. 161.001(1). The court of appeals reversed, holding (1) for a trial court to terminate parental rights under section 161.001(1)(O), it must find the child who was the subject of the suit was removed as a result of the abuse or neglect of that specific child; and (2) Mother's abuse of Daughter was not evidence that Mother abused or neglected Son. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that abuse or neglect includes placing the child's physical health or safety at substantial risk, and the parent's abuse or neglect of another child is relevant to that determination. Remanded. View "In re Interest of E.C.R." on Justia Law