Articles Posted in Family Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that Grandparents lacked standing to pursue a suit affecting the parent-child relationship (SAPCR) under Tex. Fam. Code 102.003(a)(9). Section 102.003(a)(9) confers standing to pursue a SAPCR on nonparents who have had “actual care, control, and possession of the child for at least six months.” The child at issue in this case lived in Grandparents’ home for the first twenty-three months of her life. During the last eight of those months, Grandparents were the child’s primary caretakers and providers. Grandparents filed a petition to modify a SAPCR order requesting conservatorship of the child. The trial court dismissed the petition, determining that Grandparents did not establish that they had “actual care” or “actual control” over the child for the six-month period preceding their petition filing. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Grandparents, having continuously engaged in a parent-like role on a day-to-day basis during the statutory time period, had standing to pursue a SAPCR under section 102.003(a)(9). View "In re H.S." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The prohibition in Texas Fam. Code 231.211(a) that courts may not assess costs at the conclusion of a Title VI-D case against a party who was provided services by the Title IV-D agency applies to courts of appeals. Shana Williams filed a suit that resulted in a determination that Christopher Spates was the father of Williams’ child and an order that he pay child support. The trial court later signed a modification order that retroactively reduced Spates’s child support obligation. Williams subsequently moved successfully to void the modification order based on a procedural anomaly. The court of appeals reinstated the modification order and assessed court costs against Williams. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) moved for rehearing regarding the assessment of costs, arguing that section 231.211(a) prohibited the assessment. The court of appeals denied the motion on the grounds that the prohibition does not apply to appellate courts. The Supreme Court reversed on this issue, holding that the OAG has statutory standing to bring this appeal and that section 231.211(a)’s prohibition of the assessment of fees and costs applies to both trial courts and appellate courts. View "In re C.Y.K.S." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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At issue was whether Grandparents were liable to Father for assisting in their daughter’s (Mother) interference with Father’s possessory rights to his children. Mother employed “egregious and outrageous tactics” to prevent Father from seeing the parties’ two children, including coaching the parties’ young son to falsely accuse his father of sexual abuse. While the abuse allegations were under investigation, Grandparents supported Mother by helping her care for the children. Father sued Grandparents for negligence, defamation, and “aiding and assisting” Mother’s interference with his possessory rights, in violation of Tex. Fam. Code chapter 42. The trial court awarded Father more than $10.5 million in damages. The court of appeals reversed as to the defamation charge and a small portion of the Family Code damages award but otherwise affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed in part and rendered a take-nothing judgment, holding (1) the defamation claims were unsustainable due to lack of pleadings and sufficient causation evidence; and (2) the evidence was legally insufficient to support Grandparents’ liability under chapter 42 and the tort theories alleged. View "Bos v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The mother of an adult disabled child had standing under the Texas Family Code to seek child support even though the child did not live with the mother, the mother did not have physical custody of the child, and the mother was not the child’s legal guardian. The trial court directed the father of the disabled child to pay child support to the mother, concluding that both the father and the mother, as parents, had a duty to support the child and that it was in the child’s best interest that they do so. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the mother did not have standing. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and remanded to that court for it to consider the issues it did not reach, holding that, under Tex. Fam. Code 154.303(a)(1), the mother had standing to seek support in this case. View "In re Interest of C.J.N.-S." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The mother of an adult disabled child had standing under the Texas Family Code to seek child support even though the child did not live with the mother, the mother did not have physical custody of the child, and the mother was not the child’s legal guardian. The trial court directed the father of the disabled child to pay child support to the mother, concluding that both the father and the mother, as parents, had a duty to support the child and that it was in the child’s best interest that they do so. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the mother did not have standing. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and remanded to that court for it to consider the issues it did not reach, holding that, under Tex. Fam. Code 154.303(a)(1), the mother had standing to seek support in this case. View "In re Interest of C.J.N.-S." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Mother had a history of drug use, had been incarcerated for heroin use, and was observed injecting heroin days before the San Antonio Department of Family and Protective Services filed a petition with respect to two-year-old M.M. Months earlier, M.M. had suffered a cigarette burn on her arm. At pretrial hearings, the court found that Mother was not in compliance with her service plan. The Department expressed concern regarding the Mother’s mental stability. Before trial, Mother signed a statutorily compliant affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights,TEX. FAM. CODE 161.103. Mother testified that she had signed the affidavit without coercion and that she signed it truly believing that doing so was in M.M.’s best interest. The caseworker testified that relinquishment of Mother’s parental rights was in the child’s best interest and that M.M. was in the care of a grandmother providing a safe and secure home. The court rendered a final judgment terminating the Mother’s parental rights. Mother changed her mind and appealed. The court of appeals reversed, reasoning that “the Department was not relieved of its burden to prove best interest" when a parent executed a voluntary affidavit of relinquishment. The Texas Supreme Court reversed. Because Mother’s appeal is not “limited to issues relating to fraud, duress, or coercion” under section 161.211(c), but was based on insufficiency of the evidence, the appeal is foreclosed by statute. View "In the Interest of M.M., a Child" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The San Antonio Department of Family and Protective Services brought suit on behalf of K.S.L., an infant, stating that Mother had tested positive for drugs. Father later admitted he had relapsed. There was an open legal case concerning the parents and another daughter. The affidavit detailed several incidents of possession, use, and sale of illegal drugs by both parents, including a high-speed chase with the children as passengers. The Department initially sought reunification but the court concluded that the parents were not able to provide K.S.L. with a safe environment and that returning her to the parents was not in her best interest. Both parents signed affidavits of voluntary relinquishment of parental rights, represented by counsel. The caseworker testified that the relinquishments were in K.S.L.’s best interest and that arrangement had been made for an uncle to adopt her. The court signed an order of termination, finding by clear and convincing evidence that the parents had signed irrevocable affidavits of relinquishment, and the terminations were in K.S.L.’s best interest. Days later, both parents appealed on the ground that the evidence was insufficient to support the best-interest finding. The court of appeals reversed, holding, “the Department did not meet its burden to establish ... that termination … is in the child’s best interest.” The Supreme Court of Texas reversed, rejecting due process arguments. The parents’ affidavits complied with all statutory directives, Family Code sections: 161.001(b) and 161.211. View "In the Interest of K.S.L., a Child" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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At issue in this appeal from a Title IV-D associate judge’s order modifying conservatorship and child support for three children was whether the Title IV-D associate judge had authority to enter an order modifying conservatorship. The court of appeals reversed the associate judge’s order on the ground that the Title IV-D associate judge had no authority to enter an order modifying conservatorship before recent amendments to the Family Code to expressly grant Title IV-D associate judges such authority. The court of appeals also reversed on the independent ground that the associate judge erred by failing to consider the children’s father’s request to participate in the hearing remotely from prison. The Supreme Court affirmed solely on the independent ground that the associate judge failed to consider Father’s request to participate in the hearing by alternative means. The court, however, disagreed with the court of appeals’ ruling that the Title IV-D associate judge lacked authority to enter the order modifying conservatorship and child support, holding that the former version of the Texas Family Code grants Title IV-D associate judges authority to modify conservatorship when, as here, the modification relates to the establishment, enforcement, or modification of a child-support obligation. View "Office of Attorney General of Texas" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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In 2013, the Mayor of Houston directed that same-sex spouses of employees who have been legally married in another jurisdiction be afforded the same benefits as spouses of a heterosexual marriage. Plaintiffs, Houston taxpayers and voters, filed suit against the City and its Mayor challenging the Mayor’s directive authorizing expenditures and the City’s provision of benefits pursuant to that directive. Specifically, Plaintiffs argued that the Mayor’s directive authorizing the expenditures violated Texas’s and the City’s defense of marriage acts. The trial court granted a temporary injunction prohibiting the Mayor from furnishing benefits to persons who were married in other jurisdictions to City employees of the same sex. While Defendants’ interlocutory appeal was pending, the United States Supreme Court held in Obergefell v. Hodges, __ U.S. __ (2015) that states may not exclude same sex couples from civil marriage on the same terms and conditions as opposite sex couples. The court of appeals subsequently reversed the temporary injunction and remanded the case. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment, vacated the trial court’s orders and remanded, holding that the court’s opinion and judgment imposed greater restrictions on remand the Obergefell and this court’s precedent required. View "Pidgeon v. Turner" on Justia Law

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At issue in this family law dispute was whether a mediated settlement agreement (MSA) entered into the parties after nearly two years of divorce proceedings partitioned a discretionary employee bonus Husband received nine months after the divorce decree was entered. Husband argued that the bonus constituted future income and earnings that were partitioned to him under the MSA. Wife argued that part of the bonus was earned during the marriage and constituted undivided community property. The trial court granted summary judgment for Husband. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the MSA partitioned the bonus, and therefore, the trial court properly granted summary judgment for Husband. View "Loya v. Loya" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law