Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas
Appeal from the 302nd Judicial District Court Dallas County,
Texas Trial Court Cause No. DF-17-07173
Justices Bridges, Partida-Kipness, and Carlyle
L. CARLYLE, JUSTICE
suit affecting the parent-child relationship (SAPCR),
appellant Father contends the trial court erred by entering a
default judgment against him without notice of the hearing at
which the judgment was rendered. We affirm.
filed this suit in April 2017, seeking conservatorship and
child support determinations as to his child with Mother.
Mother filed a timely general denial answer and a July 2017
"Original Counterpetition" requesting injunctive
and other relief against "Counterrespondent,"
Father. On August 30, 2017, both Father and Mother appeared
in person at a hearing before an associate judge and signed
an agreed "Associate Judge's Report," in which
they provided their current addresses. Following that
hearing, the associate judge signed agreed temporary orders
regarding conservatorship and child support. In December
2017, Father's attorney filed a motion to withdraw as
counsel, which the trial court granted.
April 2018, Mother filed a motion to enforce child support.
The trial court signed an order requiring Father to
"appear and show cause" at the July 2018 hearing on
that motion. Father was personally served with that order but
did not appear at the hearing. On July 30, 2018, the trial
court signed an "Order for Capias and Setting on
Bond" regarding Father, who was described in that order
August 20, 2018, the trial court heard this case. Father did
not appear at trial. At the start of trial, the trial court
"called the hall" for Father, with no response.
After hearing Mother's testimony, the trial court stated,
"Let the record reflect that the Respondent was properly
noticed of the trial setting. He failed to appear. The hall
was called. There was no response; therefore, he is in
default." The trial court signed a September 13, 2018
"Default Order in SAPCR" appointing Father as a
possessory conservator and ordering him to pay child support.
On October 12, 2018, Father appealed that
are two types of default judgments: a no-answer default
judgment and a post-answer default judgment. See
Dolgencorp of Tex., Inc. v. Lerma, 288 S.W.3d 922, 930
(Tex. 2009) (per curiam); Tunad Enters., Inc. v.
Palma, No. 05-17-00208-CV, 2018 WL 3134891, at *4-5
(Tex. App.-Dallas Jun. 27, 2018, no pet.) (mem. op.). A
no-answer default judgment is "caused by a
defendant's failure to answer after service."
Paradigm Oil, Inc. v. Retamco Operating, Inc., 372
S.W.3d 177, 183 (Tex. 2012); see also Tex. R. Civ.
P. 239. A post-answer default judgment "occurs when a
defendant who has answered fails to appear for trial."
Lerma, 288 S.W.3d at 925.
answer to a lawsuit does not necessarily have to follow a
standard form. Tunad, 2018 WL 3134891, at *5. A
letter that is signed by the defendant providing the name of
the parties, the cause number, and the defendant's
current address constitutes an answer which prevents the
taking of a no-answer default judgment. Id. (citing
Smith v. Lippman, 826 S.W.2d 137, 138 (Tex. 1992)
(per curiam); Cox v. Nat'l Collegiate Student Loan
Trust 2006-2, No. 07-14-00253-CV, 2014 WL 6656977, at *1
(Tex. App.-Amarillo Nov. 24, 2014, no pet.) (mem. op.)).
parties in a contested case must be given forty-five
days' notice of the first trial setting. Tex.R.Civ.P.
245. If a timely answer has been filed in a contested case or
the defendant has otherwise made an appearance, due process
rights are violated when a judgment is subsequently entered
without the party having received notice of the setting of
the case, even when that party previously waived notice of
citation. In re K.M.L., 443 S.W.3d 101, 118-19 (Tex.
2014). But the due process right to notice prior to judgment
is subject to waiver. Id. at 119.
review a trial court's conclusions of law de novo.
BMC Software Belgium, N.V. v. Marchand, 83 S.W.3d
789, 794 (Tex. 2002); see also Zorrilla v. Aypco Constr.
II, LLC, 469 S.W.3d 143, 155 (Tex. 2015) (procedural
rule interpretation is question of law reviewed de novo).
first issue, Father asserts the trial court's default
order against him was improper because he "sufficiently
entered an appearance to have constructively
'answered' the Counterpetition." Father signed
the August 30, 2017 Associate Judge's Report, which
contained the names of the parties, the cause number, and
Father's current address. We conclude that report
constituted an answer that precluded a no-answer ...