Petition for Review from the Court of Appeals for the Fourth
District of Texas
parental-termination case, the mother's parental rights
were terminated after she signed an affidavit of voluntary
relinquishment. She then appealed on grounds that the
evidence of the child's best interest was factually and
legally insufficient. Our decision today in In re
K.S.L. decides this case. ___S.W.3d ___. We reverse the
court of appeals' judgment regarding termination of
case began when San Antonio's Department of Family and
Protective Services brought suit requesting, among other
relief, that it be appointed temporary conservator of MM., a
two-year-old child. As supported by an affidavit, the
petition alleged that the Mother, V.R., had a history of drug
use, had been incarcerated for heroin use, and was observed
injecting heroin a few days before the petition was filed in
December 2015. A few months earlier, M.M. had suffered a
cigarette burn on her left arm. The petition sought
termination of the Mother's parental rights if
reunification could not be achieved.
trial court entered various pretrial orders and conducted
pretrial hearings. The Mother signed a service plan. At two
pretrial hearings, the court found that the Mother was not in
compliance with her service plan. In a report to the court,
the Department expressed concern regarding the Mother's
mental stability due to a failure to take prescribed
psychiatric medications, and another report noted that she
had failed to complete three drug-treatment programs.
trial, the Mother signed a statutorily compliant affidavit of
relinquishment of parental rights. See Tex. Fam.
Code § 161.103. The affidavit states, "Termination
of the parent-child relationship is in the best interest of
the child." The affidavit states that it is irrevocable.
It declares, "I am signing it freely, voluntarily, and
with the firm conviction that this decision is the best
available alternative for my child."
trial, the Mother testified that she had signed the affidavit
without coercion and that she signed it truly believing that
doing so was in M.M.'s best interest. The caseworker
testified to her belief that the relinquishment of the
Mother's parental rights was in the child's best
interest, and that M.M. was now in the care of a grandmother
providing a safe and secure home. The caseworker testified
that the case began with reports of neglect, and that during
an initial visit M.M. was found with a cigarette burn on her
arm, and the Mother was found lethargic and unable to care
for M.M. The caseworker further testified that services had
been made available to the Mother to assist her in
maintaining parental rights, but that the Mother had been
unable to comply with and complete those services.
trial court rendered a final judgment terminating the
Mother's parental rights. The order states that the court
finds by clear and convincing evidence that termination is in
M.M.'s best interest and that the Mother executed an
affidavit of relinquishment pursuant to Family Code §
happened in K.S.L., the Mother changed her mind
regarding termination of parental rights, for reasons not
apparent from the record or briefs. She appealed on grounds
the evidence was legally and factually insufficient to
support the trial court's finding that termination was in
the child's best interest. The court of appeals reversed
the part of the trial court's judgment terminating the
Mother's parental rights. Also as in K.S.L., the
court of appeals affirmed the part of the trial court's
judgment appointing the Department permanent managing
conservator of M.M.
reversing the trial court's termination of parental
rights, the court of appeals relied on its decision in
K.S.L. The court reasoned that "the Department
was not relieved of its burden to prove best interest merely
because a parent has executed a voluntary and irrevocable
affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights." In
re M.M., ___S.W.3d___, ___ (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2017)
(citing In re K.S.L., 499 S.W.3d 109, 114 (Tex.
App.-San Antonio 2016)).
repeating our analysis in K.S.L., the Mother's
appeal of the termination of parental rights fails because
Family Code section 161.211(c) precludes an appeal except on
grounds that the affidavit of relinquishment was tainted by
fraud, duress, or coercion. Because the Mother's appeal
is not "limited to issues relating to fraud, duress, or
coercion" under the language of section 161.211(c), but
is instead based on insufficiency of the evidence, the appeal
is foreclosed by statute.
Mother argues that interpreting section 161.211(c) to
foreclose her appeal would violate her federal due process
rights. As we conclude today in K.S.L., holding that
section 161.211(c) means what it says does not deprive the
parent of her due process rights. K.S.L., ___S.W.3d
without hearing oral argument, see Tex. R. App. P.
59.1, we reverse the part of the court of appeals'
judgment that reversed the trial court's order
terminating V.R.'s parental rights. We ...