Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas
Appeal from the 305th Judicial District Court Dallas County,
Texas Trial Court Cause No. JC-16-00551-X
Justices Lang, Myers, and Stoddart.
DOUGLAS S. LANG JUSTICE.
appeals from the trial court's order appointing her
permanent possessory conservator of her daughter G.W.
Mother's court-appointed appellate counsel has filed a
motion to withdraw and a brief pursuant to Anders v.
California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967), stating Mother's
appeal is wholly without merit and frivolous. See
id. at 744; In re D.D., 279 S.W.3d 849, 850
(Tex. App.-Dallas 2009, pet. denied).
affirm the trial court's order, but deny counsel's
motion to withdraw.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL CONTEXT
receiving and investigating allegations of substance abuse
and domestic violence respecting Mother and Father, the Texas
Department of Family and Protective Services (the
"Department") filed a petition seeking
conservatorship of G.W. and termination of the parental
rights of both parents pursuant to section 161.001 of the
Texas Family Code. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §
161.001 (West Supp. 2017). An affidavit attached to the
petition stated in part the Department had received a
referral alleging Mother "is a victim of domestic
violence" by Father and "was trying to get into a
domestic violence shelter." Additionally, a Department
report filed in the trial court stated in part that at the
time G.W. was removed from the parents' home pursuant to
this case, Mother had bruises on her arm, a black eye, and a
cut lip, all of which she "did not want to talk
represented by separate appointed counsel, Mother and Father
entered into a mediated settlement agreement with the
Department (the "MSA"). The MSA provided in part
(1) Mother shall be appointed as possessory conservator of
G.W., (2) Father, his cousin, and his cousin's spouse
shall be appointed joint managing conservators, and (3) all
parties agree the MSA is in the best interest of G.W.
hearing to prove-up the MSA, a Department caseworker
testified she believed (1) the MSA is in the best interest of
G.W. and (2) the appointment of Mother as the managing
conservator of G.W. "would significantly impair the
child's physical health, emotional development."
Additionally, Mother's trial counsel stated, "I have
no witnesses, Judge. My client did participate in the MSA,
and she did sign off on it. And she does believe that this
MSA is in the best interest of the child." Further,
G.W.'s attorney ad litem and Father's trial counsel
stated they agreed with the terms of the MSA.
that hearing, the trial court signed an "Order
Appointing a Permanent Managing Conservator." The order
stated in part, "The Court finds that the parties have
entered into a binding mediated settlement agreement; that
said mediated settlement agreement is [in] the child's
best interests; and hereby adopts the same as the binding
Order of the Court, incorporated by reference herein and
attached hereto." This appeal timely followed.
reviewing an Anders brief, our duty is to determine
whether there are any arguable grounds for reversal and, if
there are, to remand the case to the trial court for the
appointment of new counsel. Bledsoe v. State, 178
S.W.3d 824, 827 (Tex. Crim. App. 2005); In re D.D.,
279 S.W.3d at 850.
Texas Family Code provides that a trial court may refer a
suit affecting the parent-child relationship to mediation.
Fam. Code § 153.0071(c). If the parties reach an
agreement and the agreement meets the statutory requirements,
it is binding on the parties and a party is entitled to
judgment on the agreement notwithstanding Texas Rule of Civil
Procedure 11 or another rule of law. See id. §
153.0071(d)-(e); In re L.M.M., 247 S.W.3d 809,
811-12 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2008, pet. denied). However, a court
may decline to enter a judgment on a mediated settlement
agreement if the court finds (1) "a party to the
agreement was a victim of family violence, and that
circumstance impaired the party's ability to make
decisions, " and (2) "the agreement is not in the
child's best interest." Fam. Code §