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In re A.E.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Twelfth District, Tyler

March 29, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF A.E. AND G.R., CHILDREN

          APPEAL FROM THE 321ST JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT SMITH COUNTY, TEXAS (TR.CT.NO. 16-1040-D)

          Panel consisted of Hoyle, J., and Neeley, J.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GREG NEELEY JUSTICE.

         Appellant R.R., acting pro se, filed an interlocutory appeal of the trial court's denial of his Amended Motion to Dismiss. We affirm.

         Background

         R.R. and M.E.[1] are the parents of G.R. On January 9, 2017, the Department of Family and Protective Services (the "Department") filed an original petition for protection of A.E.[2] and G.R., for conservatorship, and for termination of R.R.'s and M.E.'s parental rights. After the adversary hearing, the trial court appointed the Department as temporary managing conservator of the child. Both parents were appointed possessory conservators and granted supervised visitation.

         Pursuant to the trial court's order, the parties attended mediation, which took place on December 28, 2017, resulting in an agreement being reached on all disputed issues. A mediation settlement agreement ("MSA") was signed by R.R., M.E., M.E.'s counsel, and the attorney ad litem for the children. The MSA was filed with the trial court on December 29, 2017, and contained the parties' agreements as to the service plans to be completed by both parents. Further, the parties agreed that if R.R. and M.E. completed their service plans without any "material violations," the Department would dismiss its claims against them and the children would be returned to them. However, if R.R. and M.E. "materially" violated the terms of their service plans, then the Department would appoint non-parents (M.E.'s son and daughter-in-law) that G.R. was currently placed with as joint managing conservators of the child and the parents as possessory conservators. Further, the MSA stated in boldfaced type capital letters that "THIS AGREEMENT IS NOT SUBJECT TO REVOCATION."

         On March 20, 2018, R.R. filed an amended motion to dismiss the case pursuant to the Texas Citizen's Participation Act. After a hearing, the trial court denied R.R.'s amended motion to dismiss. Then, the trial court held a hearing on the Department's motion to enforce the MSA. At the hearing, R.R. informed the trial court that he was withdrawing consent to the MSA. After the hearing, the trial court signed the final order in suit affecting the parent-child relationship on July 12, 2018. The final order found that R.R. and M.E. violated the terms of the MSA and that the trial court "should issue [the final order] pursuant to the [MSA] filed with the Court." The trial court ordered that the non-parents be appointed joint managing conservators of G.R., that R.R. and M.E. be appointed possessory conservators, that the parents be ordered to pay child support, and that the parents be granted supervised visitation with the child. This appeal followed.

         Mediated Settlement Agreement

         The Department argues that R.R.'s agreement to the MSA and his failure to assert any challenges to its entry waived any alleged complaints against the trial court or the Department. In his reply brief, R.R. argues that the trial court erred because the terms of the MSA did not require him to waive confidentiality in order to submit to a psychological evaluation.

         Applicable Law

A mediated settlement agreement is binding on the parties if the agreement:
(1) provides, in a prominently displayed statement that is in boldfaced type or capital letters or underlined, that the ...

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