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In re N.V.R.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Twelfth District, Tyler

March 29, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF N.V.R., D.A.R., AND J.T.R., CHILDREN

          APPEAL FROM THE 124TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT GREGG COUNTY, TEXAS (TR.CT.NO. 2007-2400-B)

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

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Greg Neeley Justice.

         William Runnels, acting pro se, appeals from the trial court's order finding him in arrears on child support owed to Domanita Craddock-Neal. He presents three issues on appeal. We affirm.

         Background

         This is a suit affecting the parent-child relationship (SAPCR). In 2016, Craddock-Neal was granted the exclusive right to determine the residency of three children, N.V.R., D.A.R., and J.T.R. The trial court also ordered Runnels to pay child support of $179.20 per month beginning on December 1, 2016. Runnels subsequently filed a motion to modify child support. In February 2017, following a hearing, the trial court issued a temporary order reducing the child support obligation to $100 per month from February 2017 through May 2017. Thereafter, the obligation would automatically increase to $179.20 per month.

         In November 2017, Craddock-Neal filed a motion for enforcement of child support and a motion for enforcement of possession. The motions alleged that Runnels failed to pay child support from December 2016 through November 2017 and that Runnels interfered with Craddock-Neal's possession when he took J.T.R. to the doctor and attempted to take all three children to a dentist appointment. In April 2018, following a hearing, the trial court found that Runnels failed to pay the ordered child support from December 2016 through April 2018 and that he violated the possession order. As a result, the trial court found Runnels in contempt for both violations and ordered him to serve 180 days in the county jail for each act of contempt, to run concurrently. The court further found that Runnels had the ability to pay the child support owed and ordered that all arrearages and current child support amounts be withheld from Runnels's earnings.

         Runnels appealed the trial court's order. On July 25, 2018, we determined that the trial court's contempt and commitment rulings contained in the order are not appealable and dismissed Runnels's appeal with respect to those claims.[1] However, we determined that any alleged error in the trial court's arrearages ruling are appealable and may be addressed by this Court.

         Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         In his first issue, Runnels complains that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the motion to modify, thereby rendering the orders of contempt and arrears void.

         Standard of Review and Applicable Law

         Subject matter jurisdiction is a question of law and is reviewed de novo. See, e.g., Tex. Ass'n of Bus. v. Tex. Air Control Bd., 852 S.W.2d 440, 445 (Tex. 1993). It "is an issue that may be raised for the first time on appeal; it may not be waived by the parties." Id. "A judgment rendered without subject-matter jurisdiction is void and subject to collateral attack." Engelman Irrigation Dist. v. Shields Bros., Inc., 514 S.W.3d 746, 750 (Tex. 2017). But "[e]rrors that make a judgment voidable are subject to waiver and must be preserved pursuant to Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 33.1." In re M.L.G.J., No. 14-14-00800-CV, 2015 WL 1402652, at *3 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] Mar. 24, 2015, no pet.) (mem. op.).

         Suits affecting the parent-child relationship are governed by Title 5 of the Texas Family Code. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §§ 101.001-266.013 (West 2014 & West Supp. 2018). Chapter 155's subchapter A, part of Title 5, states in part: "Except as otherwise provided by this section, a court acquires continuing, exclusive jurisdiction over the matters provided for by this title in connection with a child on the rendition of a final order." Id. § 155.001(a) (West Supp. 2018). In that event, "no other court of this state has jurisdiction of a suit with regard to that child" except as provided by Chapter 155 and other family code provisions not applicable in this case. Id. § 155.001(c).

          Standing is a component of subject matter jurisdiction, and any judicial action by a court without jurisdiction is void. In re H.G., 267 S.W.3d 120, 124 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2008, pet. denied). "'Without standing, a court lacks subject matter jurisdiction' over the case, and the merits of the plaintiff's claims thus cannot be litigated or decided." In re H.S., 550 S.W.3d 151, 155 (Tex. 2018) (considering whether grandparent had standing to file SAPCR seeking conservatorship of child). "When standing has been conferred by statute, the statute itself ...


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