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In re R.L.R.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Ninth District, Beaumont

September 21, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF R.L.R.

          Submitted on May 23, 2017

         On Appeal from the 418th District Court Montgomery County, Texas Trial Cause No. 07-06-06608-CV

          Before McKeithen, C.J., Kreger and Horton, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HOLLIS HORTON Justice

         This is an appeal from an order discontinuing the child support paid by R.L.R.'s father (Father) under a divorce decree dated in 2007 to zero due to a change in circumstances that resulted when the trial court changed the possessory rights of R.L.R.'s parents so that Father had R.L.R. in his possession most of the year. Mother appealed from the order modifying the right she enjoyed under the 2007 decree awarding her child support. Mother raises five issues in her appeal, arguing that (1) the trial court failed to support its order modifying her possessory rights with written findings; (2) sufficient evidence was not admitted in the modification proceeding to support the trial court's ruling to modify the requirement created in 2007 that she be paid child support; (3) the trial court abused its discretion by determining that Mother voluntarily relinquished R.L.R. to her Father; (4) the trial court abused its discretion by failing to properly apply the factors that govern whether she is entitled to child support under the requirements of section 156.401 of the Texas Family Code; and (5) the trial court erred when it relied on Mother's failure to plead that she wanted the trial court to continue to require Father to pay her child support in concluding that she was no longer entitled to be paid child support. We conclude that Mother's issues have no merit, and we affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Background

          Mother and Father married in 2000. In 2007, they had a daughter, which they named R.L.R. Shortly after R.L.R. was born, Mother sued Father for a divorce. When the divorce was granted, the trial court named Mother and Father as R.L.R.'s joint managing conservators, gave Mother the exclusive right to establish R.L.R.'s primary residence, gave Mother and Father possessory rights based on a standard possession order, and required that Father pay Mother $1, 200 a month in child support.

          In October 2014, Father filed a petition seeking to modify the terms of the possession order and to discontinue the requirement that he pay Mother child support. Mother responded to Father's petition by filing a general denial, which includes a prayer in which she asked the trial court to grant any general relief to which she showed she was entitled.

         In September 2015, the parties, through mediation, settled most of the disputed issues that Father raised in the modification proceeding; however they did not agree on the issue of who should be required to pay whom child support. The parties also could not agree on which parent should be required to obtain a health insurance policy covering R.L.R. The matters the parties were unable to resolve by agreement were then tried in a bench trial, and Mother and Father were the only witnesses who testified in the trial. When the trial concluded, the trial court modified the parties' possessory rights in three ways: (1) the court ordered that neither parent would be required to pay child support to the other parent; (2) the trial court took away Mother's right to designate R.L.R.'s primary residence, and decreed that neither parent had that right; and (3) the trial court modified the parties' possessory rights by making Father R.L.R.'s custodial parent for the majority of the year. Like the original decree, the modified order required that Father maintain a health insurance policy covering R.L.R.'s basic health-care needs.

          Approximately one month after the bench trial, the trial court reduced its findings and conclusions to writing. With respect to the issues required to dispose of the appeal, the trial court found that:

• the parties agreed "there had been a material and substantial change in circumstances [regarding R.L.R.] since the date of the [trial court's] last order, that the agreements were in the best interest of the child, and that [Mother and Father] were asking the court to make these agreements binding on the parties."
• "there had been a material and substantial change in circumstances, and that the agreements that had been reached and read into the record were in the best interest of the child."
• Mother had no pleading "on file requesting any affirmative relief."
• Mother, based on her agreement, received "an expanded standard possession order during the school year, and that holidays and summers would be shared equally. [Mother] admitted that [Father] would have more time with the child during the school year. The fact that [Father] would have more time ...

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