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In re Turner

Court of Appeals of Texas, Tenth District

May 22, 2019


          Before Chief Justice Gray, [*] Justice Davis, and Justice Neill



         Appellant Marceia Bonin-Turner ("Bonin"), [1] the mother of Jack Wayne Turner ("Jack"), appeals the trial court's dismissal of her petition to modify parent-child relationship and imposition of sanctions. We will affirm.


         Bonin and Bruce Wayne Turner ("Turner") were divorced in 1994. The divorce was filed in the 13th Judicial District Court of Navarro County, Texas. Bonin and Turner had two minor children-Jack and an older sibling. The divorce decree awarded managing conservatorship of both children to Bonin. Jack was born on May 25, 1988 with Down syndrome, but the divorce decree did not specifically identify Jack as disabled.

         Turner moved to Dallas County, and the case was transferred to the 303rd Judicial District Court of Dallas county and assigned case number 9811088-V. The Dallas County proceeding was eventually dismissed for want of prosecution on January 16, 2001. Both of the children began to live with Turner full time after they moved to Dallas. When Jack was fifteen years old, Turner and the children moved to Nashville and Bonin soon followed. After a short stay in Nashville, Turner and the children moved to Westland, Michigan. Seven years later, when Jack was twenty-three years old, Bonin did not return Jack after a scheduled visitation and took him to live with her in Nashville. Turner filed an application for a conservatorship[2] in the Seventh Circuit Court for Davidson County, Tennessee, Probate Division, Case No. 12P-305. Bonin registered the Navarro County divorce decree in Davidson County and sought to enforce her role as managing conservator of Jack. Ultimately, the Tennessee probate court denied Bonin's request and appointed Turner as Jack's conservator. The conservatorship order additionally provided Bonin with a schedule of unsupervised visitation with Jack.

         Less than a month after entry of the order of conservatorship, Turner filed an Emergency Motion for Suspension of Parenting Time, which the Tennessee probate court granted. The court suspended Bonin's unsupervised visitations with Jack and limited her to one four-hour, supervised visit per month in Detroit. Approximately seven months after the Tennessee probate court's Order altering Bonin's visitation, Turner filed a Motion for Immediate and Emergency Relief after Bonin filed a Motion for Restoration of Visitation/Parenting Time. After a hearing, the Tennessee probate court granted Turner's motion, enjoined Bonin from making further scurrilous and false claims against her older child on social media and other public forums, and granted Turner authority to record Bonin's telephone conversations with Jack. The probate court's judgment was affirmed by the Tennessee Court of Appeals. See In re Conservatorship of Turner, No. M2013-01665-COA-R3-CV, 2014 Tenn.App. LEXIS 278, 2014 WL 1901115 (Tenn. Ct. App. May 9, 2014).[3] Turner filed a motion for contempt on August 12, 2013, which was heard by the Tennessee probate court on September 4, 2014. The Tennessee probate court found Bonin in contempt after she was recorded trying to convince Jack to make further baseless allegations against his older sibling. The Tennessee probate court orally imposed a ten-day sentence of confinement on Bonin, suspended for 180 days.

         In October 2015, Bonin filed a Petition for Developmental Disability Guardianship over Jack in the probate court of Oakland County, Michigan, File No. 2015-366134-DD. Bonin also filed numerous unfounded complaints with adult protective services in both Michigan and Tennessee. Bonin moved back to Navarro County in December 2015. In April 2016, after a hearing, the Tennessee probate court found Bonin in contempt for continuing to repeat the malicious falsehoods regarding her older child on internet sites. The Tennessee probate court reduced Bonin's contact with Jack to one thirty-minute telephone call per month and ordered Bonin to pay the attorney's fees Turner had incurred in the courts of Tennessee and Michigan. On July 29, 2016, the Tennessee probate court again found Bonin in contempt of court for giving Turner a false address and enjoined Bonin from having any further contact with Jack.

         Bonin initiated the present action in Navarro County on June 9, 2017. The Michigan probate court held a hearing on Bonin's guardianship application on August 16, 2017 and denied her petition. After learning of Bonin's litigation history in Tennessee, the Michigan probate court ordered that any further proceedings regarding Jack should take place in Nashville and awarded Turner his attorney's fees. On August 17, 2017, after a hearing, the Navarro County court sustained Turner's special appearance and found that it had no jurisdiction to consider Bonin's claims. The Navarro Court additionally sanctioned Bonin for attempting to circumvent the Tennessee courts and ordered her to pay Turner's attorney's fees. The Navarro County court entered the following findings of fact on October 15, 2017:

1. This case was filed in the 13th District Court of Navarro County as a divorce with children.
2. The 13th District Court granted the divorce on March 17, 1994 with the final decree signed on April 6, 1994.
3. The 13th District Court signed an Order Transferring Venue to Dallas County on June 9, 1998.
4. On June 26, 1998, the 303rd District Court in Dallas County placed the case on its docket.
5. A Court in Tennessee, finding that neither of the parties nor their child lived in the State of Texas, entered orders regarding the parties and the child in the State of Tennessee.
6. The Respondent and the child then moved to the State of Michigan whereby the Petitioner attempted to modify the Tennessee orders in a Michigan court.
7. The Michigan court dismissed the Petitioner's case in Michigan and ordered the Petitioner to pursue her case in Tennessee.
8. On June 9, 2017, the Petitioner filed a Petition to Modify Parent-Child Relationship in the 13th District Court knowing that the case ...

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