Court of Appeals of Texas, Ninth District, Beaumont
Submitted on November 15, 2016
Appeal from the 317th District Court Jefferson County, Texas
Trial Cause No. C-215, 371
McKeithen, C.J., Kreger and Johnson, JJ.
CHARLES KREGER, Justice.
divorce originated in the 317th District Court. Appellant,
Aundre James Simien, Sr. appeals a final judgment entered in
the case by the presiding judge of the 136th District
Court. In three issues, Aundre argues that the
trial court that entered the divorce decree lacked
jurisdiction to do so and complains about provisions in the
decree that provide for the division of the community estate.
For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the trial
case was originally filed in the 317th District Court and was
called to trial before an associate judge sitting in that
court. Aundre objected to the associate judge hearing the
case, and the case was then "assigned to Judge Milton
Gunn Shuffield to preside." The final hearing was
continued to allow the parties to prepare a joint inventory.
Following the continuance, Judge Shuffield called the case to
trial and heard evidence over the course of several days, and
thereafter, signed and entered a Final Decree of Divorce. The
record contains no indication that Aundre objected to the
assignment of Judge Shuffield to hear the case or enter
orders at the time of assignment, before or during the trial
on the merits, at the hearing on Tanika's request to
enter a final order, or in his Motion for New Trial.
first issue on appeal, Aundre argues that the 136th District
Court did not have jurisdiction to enter any divorce decree
or custody order because there was no motion or order to
transfer the case into that court from the 317th District
Texas Constitution expressly permits District Judges to
"exchange districts, or hold courts for each other when
they may deem it expedient[.]" Tex. Const. art. V,
§ 11. The Texas Government Code also provides district
judges wide discretion to temporarily exchange benches with
the judge of another district court in the county, hear and
determine matters pending in other district courts within the
county, and transfer civil or criminal cases to the docket of
another district court within the same county. See
Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 24.003 (West Supp. 2016).
argues that "[t]he exclusive transfer provisions
provided in . . . section 155.202 [of the Texas Family Code]
negate the ability to transfer cases freely between District
Courts and [sic] the same county." Aundre's reliance
on section 155.202 under the facts of this case is misplaced,
however, as that subchapter applies specifically to
proceedings in which one trial court has acquired continuing,
exclusive jurisdiction over a matter as a result of the
rendition of a final order pertaining to a child, and a party
seeks to initiate or transfer subsequent proceedings relating
to that child in or to a different court. See Tex.
Fam. Code Ann. § 155.001(a), (c) (West Supp. 2016). The
cases Aundre cites in support of his argument are also
inapplicable, as both cases involve transfers of suits from
courts that had acquired continuing, exclusive jurisdiction
over the respective matters. See Alexander v.
Russell, 699 S.W.2d 209, 210 (Tex. 1985) (holding that
jurisdiction could not be transferred from the court that
originally established conservatorship of a child to another
district court without a proper motion and transfer order);
Kirby v. Chapman, 917 S.W.2d 902, 907-08 (Tex.
App.-Fort Worth 1996, no writ) (finding that a district court
lacked subject matter jurisdiction to modify the custody
order of another district court that had acquired continuing,
exclusive jurisdiction over the matter).
case, there was no transfer of the proceedings from the 317th
District Court to the 136th District Court; rather, there was
an assignment for Judge Shuffield to preside, as explicitly
permitted by section 24.003 of the Texas Government Code
irrespective of Chapter 155 of the Texas Family Code.
See Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 24.003(b)(2).
Moreover, even if the proceedings were deemed
"transferred, " no court had acquired continuing,
exclusive jurisdiction over the matter prior to entry of a
final order. See Tex. Fam. Code § 155.001(a).
Therefore, the assignment of Judge Shuffield to preside over
the matter was not subject to the procedures for transfer of
suits affecting the parent-child relationship set forth in
Chapter 155. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 155.204
also cites section 74.053(a) of the Texas Government Code in
support of his assertion that a written notice or order was
required to properly convey jurisdiction. This reliance is
likewise misplaced, because "[w]hen judges exchange
districts or hold court for each other, [s]ection 74.053 of
the Government Code does not apply." Gonzalez v.
Ables, 945 S.W.2d 253, 254 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 1997,
orig. proceeding). Further, nothing in section 24.003 of the
Government Code or article V, section 11 of the Texas
Constitution requires a written order or explanation for an
exchange of benches by district judges. See Mata v.
State, 669 S.W.2d 119, 121 (Tex. Crim. App. 1984).
Accordingly, we overrule Aundre's first issue.
second issue, Aundre argues that the trial court abused its
discretion by awarding Tanika a disproportionate division of
the community estate. Specifically, Aundre contends that the
trial court awarded Tanika sixty percent of the community
property and that ...