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In re C.C.E.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

September 21, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF C.C.E., A CHILD

         On Appeal from the 257th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 2009-72739

          Panel consists of Chief Justice Frost and Justices Donovan and Wise.

          OPINION

          Kem Thompson Frost, Chief Justice.

         In this suit affecting the parent-child relationship, the mother challenges the trial court's agreed order rendered on a mediated settlement agreement pursuant to Texas Family Code section 153.0071(e). The mother argues that the trial court erred in enforcing the Mediated Settlement Agreement because (1) it contains a child-support provision that allegedly violates public policy; (2) the mother withdrew her consent to the Mediated Settlement Agreement before the court approved it; and (3) the court did not allow her to present evidence in support of the family-violence exception. Deciding the issues preserved for appellate review, we conclude the mother has not established that the trial court abused its discretion in enforcing the Mediated Settlement Agreement. We also conclude the mother could not withdraw her consent to the irrevocable Mediated Settlement Agreement. We affirm the trial court's order.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         C.C.E. is the child of appellant, the mother, and appellee, the father, who once were husband and wife. Four years after the mother and father divorced, the mother sought changes to the final divorce decree. Specifically, she sought modifications in visitation and child support.

         Mediated Settlement Agreement

         The mother and father attended mediation and ultimately signed an "Irrevocable Mediated Settlement Agreement" in which they agreed to various terms, including an expanded standard possession order, an injunction against corporal punishment, communication through "Our Family Wizard, " changes to the rights and duties in making legal decisions, passport provisions, telephone access, and designating the child's elementary school. The Mediated Settlement Agreement (the "Agreement") also contains a provision under which the parties effectively would stand still for a thirteen-month period when it came to child-support increases. This standstill provision states: "No child support increase shall be sought until December 2016" ("Standstill Provision").

         The parties and their attorneys signed the Agreement and filed it with the district court. The face of the Agreement states in all capital letters: "THIS AGREEMENT IS A FULL AND FINAL SETTLEMENT ON ALL ISSUES AND IS BINDING ON THE PARTIES AND NOT SUBJECT TO REVOCATION." The Agreement further provides:

5. This agreement is signed voluntarily and on the date set out below, and, subject to the Court's approval, its provisions are intended to be incorporated into a final order in this case. This agreement is meant to be a full and final settlement of all claims asserted in this cause of action or which could have been asserted herein.

         The mother then filed an "Agreed Motion to Modify Parent-Child Relationship, " along with a proposed agreed order. Both parties signed the proposed agreed order, approving and consenting to the order as to both form and substance. In the order the parties agreed and the trial court found that the modifications were in the best interest of the child. With regard to child support, the agreed order states: "neither party shall file for a modification of child support prior to December 1, 2016."

         Mother's Attempted Revocation of Consent to the Agreement

         Two and a half months after filing the Agreed Motion to Modify and the proposed agreed order and before the trial court ruled on the motion, the mother sought to revoke her consent to the Agreement.[1] After a hearing, the trial court signed the agreed order. There is no reporter's record from the hearing.

         Trial Court's Order on the Agreement

         The trial court issued findings of fact and conclusions of law, which the mother has not challenged on appeal. The trial ...


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