Court of Appeals of Texas, Seventh District, Amarillo
IN THE INTEREST OF A.G., A.R., AND K.C., CHILDREN
Appeal from the 364th District Court Lubbock County, Texas
Trial Court No. 2011-559, 868, Honorable William R. Eichman
CAMPBELL and PIRTLE and PARKER, JJ.
C. Parker Justice
appeals the termination of her parental rights to her
children, A.G., A.R., and K.C. In two issues, Mother argues that
her execution of an affidavit relinquishing her parental
rights to her three children was involuntary and that the
affidavit was obtained as a result of fraud or
misrepresentation. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm
the judgment of the trial court.
of 2016, the Department of Family and Protective Services
sent a representative to investigate a report of domestic
violence in the home where Mother lived with her children and
her boyfriend, who is the father of K.C. Soon thereafter, the
Department removed the children from Mother's care. In
June, the Department was granted temporary managing
conservatorship over A.G., A.R., and K.C. The Department
eventually determined that reunification of the children with
Mother was not feasible, and filed a petition to terminate
the parent-child relationship between Mother and the
bench trial, the presiding associate judge terminated
Mother's parental rights on June 27, 2017. Mother then
requested a de novo jury trial. The de novo jury trial was
set for July 17 in district court. That morning, Mother
signed an irrevocable affidavit of voluntary relinquishment
of her parental rights. Mother and the children's foster
parent also entered "Stipulations and Agreement, "
a document setting forth terms for future contact between
Mother and the children. Mother was represented by counsel at
trial and when she signed the affidavit and agreement. The
trial court signed an order terminating Mother's parental
rights based on its findings that Mother voluntarily executed
the affidavit and termination was in the best interest of the
children. The trial court designated the Department
as the managing conservator of the children.
then filed this appeal. She argues that her execution of the
affidavit of voluntary relinquishment was rendered
involuntary because it was signed in exchange for
unenforceable promises in the post-termination visitation
agreement, and further, that she signed the affidavit due to
fraud or misrepresentation.
the Texas Family Code, the trial court may terminate parental
rights upon a finding, by clear and convincing evidence, that
the parent has "executed before or after the suit is
filed an unrevoked or irrevocable affidavit of relinquishment
of parental rights as provided by this chapter, " and
that termination is in the best interest of the child. Tex.
Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b)(1)(K), (2) (West Supp.
2017). The express requirements of such an affidavit of
relinquishment are identified in section 161.103.
Id. § 161.103 (West Supp. 2017). Implicit in
the Family Code is the requirement that the affidavit of
voluntary relinquishment be voluntarily executed. Neal v.
Tex. Dep't of Human Servs., 814 S.W.2d 216, 218
(Tex. App.-San Antonio 1991, writ denied). An involuntarily
executed affidavit is a complete defense to a termination
decree based solely on such an affidavit. In re
D.R.L.M., 84 S.W.3d 281, 296 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2002,
the proponent of an affidavit demonstrates that it complies
with the requirements of Texas Family Code § 161.103,
the party opposing the affidavit must prove, by a
preponderance of the evidence, that it was executed as a
result of "fraud, duress, or coercion" for the
affidavit to be set aside. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §
161.211(c) (West 2014); see In re D.E.H., 301 S.W.3d
825, 830 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2009, pet. denied) (en banc).
first issue, Mother contends that her affidavit of
relinquishment was involuntary because it was executed in
exchange for unenforceable promises. Specifically, she argues
that the "Stipulations and Agreement, "
contemplating post-termination contact between Mother and the
children, is unenforceable.
affidavit of relinquishment meets the requirements of section
161.103 of the Texas Family Code, which is prima facie
evidence of its validity. See In re R.B., 225 S.W.3d
798, 804 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2007, no pet.).
Moreover, neither the affidavit nor the record of the
termination hearing establishes that Mother conditioned the
voluntary termination of her ...