Articles Posted in Family Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals in this government-initiated termination proceeding, holding that a parent’s unrecanted and uncontroverted admission that termination is in her children’s best interests, coupled with stipulations as to grounds for termination and permanency plans, are evidence to support the trial court’s best-interest findings. In this case involving the five children of Mother and the three men alleged to be the children’s fathers, the trial court found grounds to terminate the parent-child relationships and that termination of each parent-child relationship was in that child’s best interest. The court approved and incorporated into its final order a mediated settlement agreement (MSA) signed by the parents, counsel, and others in which the parents stipulated that their parental rights would be terminated on two statutory grounds and best interests. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the evidence in the form of statements in the MSA was sufficient to support termination. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a parent’s voluntary and affirmative statements that termination of parental rights is in the child’s best interest in an MSA satisfies the requirement that a best-interest finding be supported by clear and convincing evidence. View "In re Interest of A.C." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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At issue in this divorce case was whether the trial court properly divided the parties’ community home eighty percent to Wife and twenty percent to Husband where Husband had been convicted for the continuous sexual abuse of Wife’s daughter and where Husband used the family home to commit the abuse. The court of appeals affirmed the property division, concluding that “[t]he division should not be a punishment for the spouse at fault.” Wife appealed, arguing that the division was not just and right. A plurality of the Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings, holding that where Husband was convicted of using community property to sexually abuse his stepdaughter, it was not “just and right,” as a matter of law, to award Husband an interest in the family home. View "Bradshaw v. Bradshaw" on Justia Law

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Trial court orders enforcing an agreed spousal-support obligation, specifically, a wage-withholding order and an order assigning retirement benefits to enforce unpaid spousal support, were void. An Oklahoma court entered an order approving and incorporating the parties’ agreements regarding spousal-support obligations. After Husband filed for divorce in Texas, Wife filed the Oklahoma order in the Texas court. The court granted the divorce, incorporating the agreements as approved in the Oklahoma order. The court then issued various post-divorce orders to enforce Husband’s obligations. Husband appealed, challenging a qualified domestic relations order assigning Wife interests in Husband’s retirement accounts and the order dismissing his motion to vacate a wage-withholding order. The court of appeals affirmed as modified. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) wage withholding is not available to support all spousal-support judgments in Texas; and (2) the trial court acted without statutory authority when it assigned additional interests in Husband’s retirement accounts to Wife for Husband’s support arrearages. View "Dalton v. Dalton" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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In this divorce case, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the finding of the trial court that Wife’s attempt to rescind a premarital agreement triggered a clause in the agreement under which Wife lost a $5 million payment otherwise due to her. Prior to the parties’ marriage, they entered into an “Agreement in Contemplation of Marriage” under which Husband would make a lump-sum cash payment to Wife upon the entry of a divorce decree. The Agreement also contained a “no-contest” or “forfeiture” clause, under which Wife would lose her contractual right to the lump-sum payment. After Husband filed for divorce, Wife requested rescission of the Agreement. Ultimately, the trial court concluded that Wife forfeited any cash payment under the Agreement. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that by unsuccessfully seeking rescission of the Agreement and pursuing that remedy throughout the litigation, Wife lost her contractual right to the lump-sum payment under the Agreement. View "In re Marriage of I.C." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts, 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