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In re J.I.M.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Sixth District, Texarkana

March 9, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF J.I.M., A CHILD

          Submitted: February 27, 2017

         On Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 2 Gregg County, Texas Trial Court No. 2015-1278-CCL2

          Before Morriss, C.J., Moseley and Burgess, JJ.

          OPINION

          Ralph K. Burgess Justice

         Mother[1] appeals a judgment entered by the Court at Law No. 2 of Gregg County (the CCL) that terminated her parental rights to her child, J.I.M.[2] Because we conclude that the CCL was without jurisdiction to enter the order terminating Mother's parental rights to J.I.M., we vacate the judgment and dismiss the case.

         I. The CCL's Judgment Was Entered Without Jurisdiction

         A. The District Court Acquires Continuing, Exclusive Jurisdiction

         In 2010, the 307th Judicial District Court of Gregg County, Texas (District Court), in cause number 2010-2179-DR, entered a judgment that established parentage and determined conservatorship issues with respect to J.I.M. On rendition of that final order determining parentage, the District Court "acquire[d] continuing, exclusive jurisdiction over the matters . . . in connection with the child." Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 155.001(a), (b)(2) (West Supp. 2016). Once a Texas court has acquired continuing, exclusive jurisdiction under Section 155.001, "no other court of this state has jurisdiction of a suit with regard to that child except as provided by [Chapter 155], Section 103.001(b), or Chapter 262." Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 155.001(c) (West Supp. 2016).

          B. The CCL's Chapter 262 Authority

         Under Chapter 262, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (the Department) may, under certain circumstances, take emergency possession of children without prior notice and a hearing. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 262.001 (West 2014). Even though one court may have continuing, exclusive jurisdiction under Chapter 155, a suit brought by a governmental entity requesting an order under Chapter 262 "may be filed in a court with jurisdiction to hear the suit in the county in which the child is found." Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 262.002 (West 2014). Chapter 262 authorizes a trial court to enter emergency orders and other temporary orders. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §§ 262.102-.103 (West Supp. 2016).

         In 2015, the Department filed a petition in the CCL under Chapter 262, which also prayed for conservatorship of the child and sought to terminate Mother's and Father's parental rights to J.I.M. The CCL entered emergency temporary orders under its Chapter 262 authority. It then set for trial the Department's request to terminate Mother's and Father's parental rights to J.I.M.

         C. The CCL Exceeded Its Chapter 262 Authority

         However, Chapter 262 did not authorize the entry of a final order in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship in this case. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 262.201 (West Supp. 2016) (stating that the result of a full adversary hearing under Chapter 262 is "an appropriate temporary order under Chapter 105"). In fact, as applicable to this case, Section 262.203 states, "On the motion of a party or the court's own motion, if applicable, the court that rendered the temporary order shall in accordance with procedures provided by Chapter 155: (1) transfer the suit to the court of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction, if any." Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 262.203(a) (West Supp. ...


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