Georganna L. Simpson and Beth M. Hearn 2016-12-20 18:01:07
Mandatory Transfers. A recent case clarified limitations on mandatory Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship, or SAPCR, transfers. In C.G.,1 the father filed a post-divorce SAPCR and a mandatory transfer motion based on the child’s residence at the time. Subsequently, the mother moved twice, the father moved once, and the child began residing with the father instead of the mother. The trial court transferred the case to the county where the child lived when the SAPCR was filed and then transferred it a second time after one of the mother’s moves. After a full bench trial, the court determined that it never acquired jurisdiction and that all its orders were void. On appeal, the court agreed that a transfer based on the child’s residency must be filed with the initial pleadings and that any subsequent motions to transfer would be untimely.2 MSAs. Additionally, Texas courts continued to refine the law regarding mediated settlement agreements, or MSAs, compliant with the Family Code.3 Termination. The Family Code permits termination of a parent-child relationship if a parent signs a voluntary affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights and if termination is in the child’s best interest.4 An affidavit by itself does not conclusively establish a best interest finding. In Morris, after the parties signed an MSA agreeing to termination of the mother’s parental rights, the father proved up the MSA in court. However, although the mother’s signed affidavit stated that termination was in the child’s best interest, no factual evidence was introduced to support that assertion, and the order granting the termination was reversed. Arbitration Clauses. In L.T.H.,5 the parties disagreed on the MSA’s provisions for the father’s visitation. The trial court agreed with the father’s interpretation of the MSA and entered a final order. The appellate court determined that the MSA was ambiguous and that the trial court erred in resolving the dispute rather than referring the case to binding arbitration as provided in the MSA.6 Voluntary Consent. In Araujo,7 the wife stated that she only signed the MSA because her first attorney “forced” her to sign. However, she introduced no evidence to corroborate her testimony, nor did she identify anything in her testimony that constituted a threat or rose to a level that would render her incapable of exercising her free agency or unable to withhold her consent. The court affirmed the order refusing to set aside the MSA. Confidentiality. In Triesch,8 the wife challenged the validity of a signed MSA after “discovering” she had an interest in certain real property, which she attempted to prove with statements made by the husband during mediation. However, due to the confidential nature of communications made during mediation, the husband’s statements could not be used to undo an existing MSA. Notes 1) In re C.G., 495 S.W.3d 40 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi 2016, pet. denied). 2) See Tex. Fam. Code § 155.201-155.207. 3) See Tex. Fam. Code §§ 6.602, 153.0071. 4) In re Morris, ___ S.W.3d ___, No. 14-16-00227-CV, 2016 WL 3457953 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2016, orig. proceeding). 5) In re L.T.H., ___ S.W.3d ___, No. 14-15-00366-CV, 2016 WL 4480892 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2016, no pet. h.). 6) See Milner v. Milner, 361 S.W.3d 615 (Tex. 2012). 7) Araujo v. Araujo, No. 13-15-00345-CV, 2016 WL 4578401 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi 2016, no pet. h.) (mem. op.). 8) Triesch v. Triesch, No. 03-15-00102-CV, 2016 WL 1039035 (Tex. App.— Austin 2016, no pet. h.) (mem. op.). GEORGANNA L. SIMPSON is a solo practitioner in Dallas whose practice focuses on family law appellate matters. BETH M. HEARN is a solo practitioner in Dallas and is of counsel to Simpson’s firm.
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