Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas
IN THE INTEREST OF A.C., J.Y., J.Y. JR., L.B., AND E.B., CHILDREN
Appeal from the 304th Judicial District Court Dallas County,
Texas Trial Court Cause No. JC-15-00958-W
Justices Lang, Brown, and Whitehill
pivotal issue in this appeal from a decree terminating
parental rights is whether a parent's un-recanted
statements in a mediated settlement agreement that statutory
grounds for termination exist and termination is in the
child's best interest, together with evidence of the
State's plans for placing the child, constitute legally
and factually sufficient evidence that termination is in the
child's best interest.
the state sued appellant (Mother) to terminate the
parent-child relationships between her and her five children.
Mother signed a mediated settlement agreement in which she
stipulated that her parental rights would be terminated based
on specific Family Code grounds "and best
interest." After a prove-up hearing at which Mother had
the opportunity to testify that termination would not be in
the children's best interest but did not appear and do
so, the trial court signed a judgment that tracked the
agreement by, among other things, terminating Mother's
parental rights as to all five children.
raises three issues. Her first two issues argue that the
evidence was legally and factually insufficient to support
the findings that terminations were in the children's
best interest. Her third issue argues that the evidence was
insufficient to support the decree's provision appointing
the State's representative as the children's managing
conclude that the evidence was sufficient to support the best
interest findings and that the trial court's
conservatorship decision was not an abuse of discretion.
Accordingly, we affirm.
2015, the Dallas County Child Protective Services Unit of the
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services
(Department) sued Mother to terminate her parental rights as
to four children. The Department also sued three men,
alleging that they were the children's fathers and
seeking to terminate their parental rights.
February 2016, the Department amended its petition to add
allegations regarding a fifth child born to Mother earlier
that month. The Department sought to terminate Mother's
parental rights (and the father's rights) as to that
child as well.
months later, Mother and her attorney signed a mediated
settlement agreement in which she stipulated that her
parental rights would be terminated as to all five children.
The agreement further provided that:
• the Department's Director would be appointed the
children's permanent managing conservator;
• the Department would consent to the children's
adoption by certain named individuals, absent unforeseeable
• if the named individuals could not adopt the children
for any reason, those individuals would become the
children's permanent managing conservators, absent
agreement also provided that Mother would be appointed the
children's non-parent possessory conservator and would
have some supervised visitation rights. All parties agreed
that the agreement was in the children's best interest.
The agreement was filed with the trial court.
later filed a motion and an amended motion to invalidate in
part the mediated settlement agreement. The amended motion
alleged that two children could not be placed as agreed and
asked the trial court to require the parties to negotiate a
new placement for the two children in question through
mediation and, if necessary, through a placement hearing. The
amended motion also asked the court to "Require the
MSA's [mediated settlement agreement's] conditions of
termination of Respondent's parental rights, including
the legal grounds, be kept in place."
trial court held a hearing and orally denied Mother's
case was set for jury trial, but that setting turned into a
mediated settlement agreement prove-up before the court.
Mother appeared solely by counsel. Caseworker Brennan
Blakemore testified about the case's basic facts and the
mediated settlement agreement's contents. The trial court
also took judicial notice of its file including the
agreement. Before resting, Mother's counsel said,
"My client is not here today but she has signed the
mediated settlement agreement, Your Honor."
trial court signed a decree terminating Mother's
parent-child relationships with all five
children. The decree also appointed Mother as
non-parent possessory conservator of the children and awarded
her supervised visitation with the children consistent with
the agreement. It ...