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In re T.R.H.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Ninth District, Beaumont

May 17, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF T.R.H. JR.

          Submitted on December 19, 2017

          On Appeal from the 75th District Court Liberty County, Texas Trial Cause No. CV0901264

          Before Kreger, Horton, and Johnson, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          CHARLES KREGER Justice

         D.H., the paternal grandmother of the minor child T.R.H. Jr., [1] appeals from the trial court's order denying her motion to modify/intervene in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship, as well as the trial court's order of dismissal on the grounds that she lacks standing to initiate or intervene in such a lawsuit.[2] We reverse and remand to the trial court.

         Background

         D.H. has an extensive history of involvement in the litigation regarding T.R.H. Jr. It began in January 2009, when the child's mother ("Mother") initiated a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship ("SAPCR") and for paternity against the child's father ("Father"). T.R.H. Jr. was born in April 2008, and the parents were never married. After a hearing in August 2009, the trial court signed an order in the SAPCR on June 16, 2010, naming Mother and Father as joint managing conservators of T.R.H. Jr., with Mother as primary. Despite the fact that D.H. was not a party to the original SAPCR and did not intervene in the suit, the trial court and parties included the following provisions in the final order, signed by the trial court:

14. Special Provision Regarding Grandmother Visitation. [D.H.], the mother of [Father], shall have a two (2) week visitation period annually provided that she give written notice to [Mother] on or before January 31 of each year.
15. Special Provision Regarding Grandmother's Right of First Refusal. [D.H.], the mother of [Father], shall have the right of first refusal should [Mother] desire to place the child in a daycare facility.

         Both Mother and Father signed and stipulated their agreement to the order.

         In September 2010, Mother sought to modify the SAPCR order of June 16, 2010. D.H. was named as a joint-petitioner with Mother. Shortly thereafter, D.H. filed a petition seeking a writ of attachment for T.R.H. Jr. seeking to enforce her right of visitation with the child as provided in the order. As a result, the trial court signed an order on October 12, 2010, ordering Mother to comply with the order of June 16, 2010, and allow D.H. visitation with T.R.H. Jr., expressly ordering Mother to relinquish possession of the child to D.H. on specific dates.

         In December 2015, D.H. filed a motion to grant visitation, which was later amended to a motion to modify and grant visitation. Mother then filed a motion to dismiss for lack of standing. A review of the record reveals that, despite recognizing that the court's order granted rights of possession/visitation with T.R.H. Jr. to D.H., the trial court did not view D.H. as a party affected by a prior order. Instead, the trial court treated the order as void. As a result, D.H. was never allowed to present any evidence to the court, and the trial court sustained the challenge to her standing.

         Shortly thereafter, Mother filed her own motion to modify the order of June 16, 2010, to remove D.H.'s right to possession/visitation with T.R.H. Jr., and D.H. was served with citation as part of that modification suit. D.H. then filed a motion seeking reconsideration of her own motions. Without allowing D.H. to present any evidence, the trial court denied her motions. The trial court once again found that D.H. had no standing. The trial court held a bench trial on November 30, 2016, without including D.H. as a party or allowing her to participate, and entered an order modifying the prior order and removing D.H.'s rights to possession/visitation. D.H. timely filed her Notice of Appeal.

         Standard ...


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