Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas
IN THE INTEREST OF J.A.C. AND Z.C.C., MINOR CHILDREN
Appeal from the 470th Judicial District Court Collin County,
Texas, Trial Court Cause No. 470-54259-2014
Justices Lang, Fillmore, and Schenck.
M. FILLMORE JUSTICE.
Mother, J.A.C. and Z.C.C. (collectively, the twins) filed a
petition to adjudicate parentage, seeking to terminate the
parent-child relationship between them and their adjudicated
father ( N.C. ) and to establish a parent-child relationship
between them and another man (W.M.). Mother filed a
cross-claim against W.M., requesting that, if the trial court
adjudicated W.M. to be the twins' father, it also enter
orders relating to conservatorship, possession of or access
to the twins, and current and retroactive child support. W.M.
moved for traditional summary judgment on Mother's
cross-claim on grounds the claim was barred by the doctrines
of collateral estoppel and res judicata because Mother was a
party to two prior divorce proceedings in which N.C. was
adjudicated to be the twins' father. The trial court
granted W.M.'s motion for summary judgment and, after a
bench trial on the twins' petition, adjudicated W.M. to
be the twins' father.
brought this appeal, alleging in two issues that the trial
court erred by granting W.M.'s motion for summary
judgment and by failing to adjudicate N.C. as not being the
twins' father. We affirm the trial court's judgment.
and N.C. were married on November 15, 1997. Prior to the
marriage, Mother had begun a sexual relationship with W.M.
and continued that relationship after she married N.C. The
twins were born in May 2001.
2003, Mother filed a petition for divorce in the Family Court
for the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit Court in South Carolina.
On April 23, 2004, the South Carolina court rendered a Final
Decree of Divorce dissolving Mother and N.C. 's marriage.
Although N.C. did not attend the hearing on Mother's
petition for divorce, Mother attended and presented evidence.
As relevant to this case, the South Carolina court found the
twins and two other children were born of Mother and N.C.
's marriage, N.C. and Mother agreed that Mother would
retain custody of the "parties' children, " and
Mother waived court-ordered child support "at this
time." The decree stated Mother and N.C. would
"work out" visitation with the children. The South
Carolina Court ordered that the divorce decree constituted a
"settlement of all matters pertaining to the custody,
visitation and support of the minor children."
and N.C. re-married on June 15, 2004. In 2008, Mother filed a
petition for divorce in the Superior Court of Fulton County,
Georgia. On June 25, 2008, the Georgia court rendered a Final
Judgment and Decree dissolving Mother and N.C. 's second
marriage. Attached to the divorce decree was Mother and N.C.
's settlement agreement, which provided that four
children, including the twins, were "born as issue of
this marriage." Mother and N.C. settled all debts and
claims "arising from the marital relationship, "
including child custody and child support. Both Mother and
N.C. "express[ed] their love and affection for the minor
children born of this marriage" and specifically
referenced the twins. Mother and N.C. agreed that Mother
would have primary physical custody of the children and N.C.
would have secondary physical custody. Mother and N.C. also
agreed to a visitation schedule for the children and to
discuss all major decisions concerning the children. N.C.
agreed to pay monthly child support in the amount of $2, 500,
and was given the right to claim the tax "dependency
deduction" for the children. The Georgia court
incorporated Mother and N.C. 's settlement agreement into
the divorce decree, ordered Mother and N.C. to comply with
the terms and conditions of the settlement agreement, and
ordered N.C. to pay monthly child support of $2, 500 to
relationship with W.M. ended in early 2013. In 2014, the
twins, through Mother, sued W.M. and N.C., requesting that
the trial court adjudicate W.M. to be their father and
adjudicate N.C. to not be their father. Mother filed a
petition in intervention requesting that, if the trial court
terminated the parent-child relationship between N.C. and the
twins and established a parent-child relationship between
W.M. and the twins, she be appointed the sole managing
conservator of the twins and W.M. be required to pay child
support. N.C. signed an Affidavit of Voluntary Relinquishment
of Parental Rights.
filed a plea to the jurisdiction, arguing the trial court did
not have subject matter jurisdiction because N.C. was the
acknowledged and adjudicated father of the twins and the
twins did not have standing to challenge paternity. The trial
court granted the plea to the jurisdiction and dismissed the
twins' petition and Mother's intervention. The twins
appealed the trial court's order. We reversed the trial
court's dismissal of the twins' petition, concluding
they had standing under section 160.637(b) of the family code
to seek an adjudication of parentage. See In re
J.A.C., No. 05-15-00554-CV, 2016 WL 3854215, at *1-3
(Tex. App.-Dallas July 13, 2016, no pet.) (mem.
remand, Mother filed a cross-claim in the twins' suit to
adjudicate parentage. Mother alleged she had a justiciable
interest in the lawsuit because the twins' request that
W.M. be adjudicated as their father would affect her
"legal interests in her children." Mother requested
"court orders relating to conservatorship, possession of
or access to the children, and child support" if W.M.
was adjudicated as the twins' father. Mother specifically
sought to be named the twins' sole managing conservator,
an award of an equitable portion of her and the twins'
prenatal and postnatal health care expenses, an award of
current child support and medical support, and retroactive
child support dating to the twins' birth. The trial court
appointed an attorney ad litem to represent the twins in
connection with their "parentage case."
filed a motion for traditional summary judgment on grounds
Mother's cross-claim was barred by the doctrines of
collateral estoppel and res judicata because Mother had
participated in the two prior divorce proceedings in which
N.C. was adjudicated to be the twins' father. As summary
judgment evidence, W.M. relied on the two divorce decrees and
N.C. 's and Mother's deposition testimony. Mother
responded to W.M.'s motion for summary judgment, but did
not attach any additional summary judgment evidence. The
trial court issued a "Ruling on Motion for Summary
Judgment, " finding as a matter of law that both the
South Carolina and Georgia divorce decrees constituted an
adjudication of the twins' parentage; pursuant to section
160.637(a) of the family code, the determinations of
parentage were binding on Mother; and Mother's claims
against W.M. relating to the parentage of the twins were
barred by collateral estoppel. The trial court ruled that
W.M.'s motion for summary judgment was granted "as
to the claims set forth in [Mother's] Original
Cross-Claim in Petition to Adjudicate Parentage[.]" The
trial court subsequently signed an order granting W.M.'s
traditional motion for summary judgment as to all claims
asserted by Mother without stating the basis for the ruling.
bench trial of the twins' claims,  the trial court
found the results of genetic testing excluded N.C. as the
twins' biological father and showed W.M. was the
twins' biological father. The trial court adjudicated
W.M. to be a parent of the twins, established a parent-child
relationship between W.M. and the twins, and ordered the
twins' birth certificates be amended to add W.M. as a
parent. At ...