IN RE S. J., Relator
District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No.
PROCEEDING WRIT OF MANDAMUS
consists of Justices Christopher, Jamison, and Donovan.
subject of this mandamus proceeding is an Emergency
Jurisdiction Order pertaining to S. S., the six year-old
child of relator S. J. (Mother) and real party-in-interest S.
B. (Father). On January 17, 2017, the Honorable James T.
Lombardino, presiding judge of the 308th District Court of
Harris County, after an evidentiary hearing, signed an
Emergency Jurisdiction Order that, among other things, orders
Mother to return the child to Chennai, India by January 23,
2017 and enjoins the parties from removing the child from
Chennai, India subject to further orders of the Principal
Family Court of Chennai, India. The Emergency Jurisdiction
Order states that the court has jurisdiction under section
152.204 of the Texas Family Code because the child is present
in Texas and it is necessary in an emergency to protect the
child because the child is subjected to or threatened with
mistreatment or abuse. See Tex. Fam. Code
§152.204(a). On January 20, 2017, Mother filed a
petition for writ of mandamus asking this court to compel the
trial court to vacate its Emergency Jurisdiction Order,
arguing that no evidence supports the trial court's
jurisdictional finding. See Tex. Gov't Code Ann.
§ 22.221 (West 2004); see also Tex. R. App. P.
52. Pursuant to Mother's motion, our court stayed the
Emergency Jurisdiction Order until a final decision by this
court on Mother's petition.
Father offered no evidence of an emergency in which it was
necessary to protect the child because the Mother had
subjected the child to or threatened the child with
mistreatment or abuse, we conclude that the trial court had
no jurisdiction under section 152.204 and that the Emergency
Jurisdiction Order is therefore void. That Mother moved with
the child from India to Texas without Father's knowledge
or consent is not sufficient, by itself, to warrant the
exercise of emergency jurisdiction under section 152.204(a).
therefore conditionally grant the petition for writ of
mandamus and direct the trial court to vacate its Emergency
Factual and Procedural Background
is a citizen of India, but Mother and the child are U.S.
citizens. Father and Mother married in January 2009 in
Chennai, India, but lived in California for the first year
and a half of the marriage. The child was born in California
on June 2, 2010. Since 2014, the child has resided in
Chennai, India, with Mother and Father. Mother was the
primary caretaker of the child. She attended every
doctor's visit, took the child to school, helped the
child with his homework, and arranged the child's social
testified that throughout the marriage Father abused alcohol
and was physically violent towards her. Mother testified that
on October 23, 2016, Father, in the presence of the child,
grew angry with Mother, struck her repeatedly, causing her
various physical injuries. Mother testified that because she
feared for her and the child's safety, she decided to
move permanently to Montgomery County, Texas.
visiting her sister in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Mother
electronically signed a lease on an apartment in Montgomery
County, Texas. Without Father's knowledge or consent,
Mother and the child traveled to Texas on December 31, 2016.
They stayed with friends in Spring, Texas, for a week while
Mother's apartment was prepared. On January 7, 2017,
Mother and the child moved into the new apartment. Mother
testified that that her employment allowed her to work from
home anywhere and that she could afford to live on her own
with the child.
during this time, contacted law enforcement in Chennai,
India, to report that his son was missing and to try to track
him down through the Cyber Crime department. Father claims
that on January 9, 2017, he filed pleadings to initiate
divorce and custody proceeding in Chennai. Mother, however,
claims that this Indian proceeding is not for custody or
divorce, but is for the restitution of conjugal rights.
Father testified before the Principal Judge of the Family
Courts in Chennai concerning Mother's taking of the
child. According to Father, the Chennai judge set a date for
a full hearing concerning the custody of the child for
February 7, 2017, and ordered the child to be produced in
court at that time. Father claims that Mother has seen this
Indian custody pleading, but Mother claims that she has not
been properly served with the Indian citation and pleading.
January 6, 2017, Father filed his Original Petition and Suit
Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship Seeking the
Prevention of International Parental Child Abduction in the
Harris County district court below. Also, on January 6, 2017,
Father discovered that Mother was in Harris County and had
her served with the petition at her friend's house. In
the petition, Father requested, among other things, that the
trial court (1) assume temporary emergency jurisdiction under
section 152.204 of the Texas Family Code, (2) appoint Father
the sole managing conservator of the child, and (3) enter
orders to prevent the international parental abduction of the
child under section 153.501-503 of the Texas Family Code. The
petition states that the child's home state is India and
that the trial court could assume emergency jurisdiction
under section 152.204 because the child had been
"wrongfully removed" from his home in India and to
prevent "further abduction."
three-day evidentiary hearing, the trial court signed an
Emergency Jurisdiction Order that, among other things,
requires Mother to return the child to Chennai, India by
January 23, 2017, and enjoins the parties from removing the
child from Chennai, India subject to further orders of the
Principal Family Court of Chennai, India. The Emergency
Jurisdiction Order states that the court finds it has
jurisdiction of this case under section 152.204 of the Texas
Family Code in that the child is present in Texas and it is
necessary in an emergency to protect the child because the
child is subjected to or threatened with mistreatment or
abuse. See Tex. Fam. Code §152.204(a). The