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In re T.A.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District, Fort Worth

May 16, 2019

In the Interest of T.A., a Child

          On Appeal from the 367th District Court Denton County, Texas Trial Court No. 2012-50502-367

          Before Kerr and Pittman, JJ., and Gonzalez, J. [1]

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Mark T. Pittman, Justice.

         Introduction

         The crux of this infelicitous appeal is whether the trial court erred by including the sum of $37.37 per month to pay for a child's dental insurance coverage in a final order in a suit to modify the parent-child relationship. Ironically, the child's divorced parents do not disagree that the father was to pay the child's dental insurance or even that the current cost of the child's dental insurance is $37.37 per month, only whether the father was to be directly responsible for the insurance or was instead supposed to reimburse the mother for the cost of the insurance.[2] Although this court has serious concerns that this appeal is both a drain of the parties' resources and a waste of the taxpayers' time and money, for the reasons set forth below, we reverse the trial court's judgment and remand this case to the trial court for further proceedings.

         Background

         I. Mother and Father Divorce and Follow-Up with Enforcement and Modification Actions Related to Their Daughter.

         The long journey to this appeal began six years ago, on February 13, 2013, when the trial court signed a final decree of divorce ending the marriage of Appellant J.A. (Father) and Appellee A.C. (Mother). Father and Mother had one child, T.A. (Daughter), who was almost two years old at the time of the divorce.

         From the record, it appears that Mother and Father have engaged in continuous conflict over Daughter since their divorce. A year after the divorce was granted, on February 17, 2014, Father filed a motion for enforcement of the residency restriction against Mother; on July 21, 2015, he filed a first amended motion for enforcement of the residency restriction, for temporary restraining order, for modification, and for declaratory judgment; and Mother returned fire by filing an original counterpetition to modify the parent-child relationship a few months later on September 11, 2015.[3]

         II. Mother and Father Agree that Father Will Provide Dental Insurance for Daughter.

         On October 27, 2015, the trial court held a bench trial on the Enforcement and Modification Actions. At the bench trial, the parties represented to the trial court that they had reached an agreement as to all matters except for the drop-off and pick-up location for Daughter when the parents exchange possession. Before the parties presented testimony concerning their respective positions regarding the proposed drop-off and pick-up location, the trial court instructed them to have their agreement read into the record. The following exchange ensued:

The Court: So might as well get the agreements that you have out on the table now.
So, Counsel, . . . do you want to call a witness or-
[Father's Attorney]: Well-
[Mother's Attorney]: (Overlapping) I'm happy to-
The Court: -(overlapping) anybody going to recite it in the ...

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