Court of Appeals of Texas, Sixth District, Texarkana
IN THE MATTER OF THE MARRIAGE OF MATTHEW THOMAS FLOWERS AND EMMA MARY FLOWERS AND IN THE INTEREST OF E.M.F., A CHILD
Submitted: August 5, 2019
Appeal from the 459th District Court Travis County, Texas
Trial Court No. D-1-FM-18-004168
Morriss, C.J., Burgess and Stevens, JJ.
E. STEVENS JUSTICE.
after Emma Mary Flowers moved with her one-year-old son,
E.M.F., to Michigan, Matthew Thomas Flowers filed a suit
affecting the parent-child relationship seeking temporary
child custody orders. After a Travis County district
court (Texas Court) entered temporary orders,
and Matthew amended his original petition adding a petition
for divorce, Emma filed a complaint in the 33rd Circuit Court
in Charlevoix County, Michigan (Michigan Court), seeking an
emergency ex parte temporary order under the temporary
emergency jurisdiction provisions of the Uniform Child
Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).
See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 152.204; Mich. Comp.
Laws Ann. § 722.1204. Following the Texas Court's
determination that it had jurisdiction under the UCCJEA, the
Michigan Court rescinded its emergency temporary order and
dismissed Emma's complaint for lack of jurisdiction. Upon
a final hearing, the Texas Court entered a final judgment
granting Matthew's petition for divorce and entering
child custody orders.
appeal,  Emma only challenges the Texas Court's
subject-matter jurisdiction to enter child custody orders
under the UCCJEA. Because we find that the Texas Court had
subject-matter jurisdiction under the UCCJEA, we affirm its
was born on June 14, 2017, in South Carolina, where Matthew,
Emma, D.F.,  and E.M.F. resided until around February
28. On either February 28 or March 1, they moved to Austin,
Texas, where Matthew had a job at Indeed. In June, Matthew,
Emma, and E.M.F. took a one-week trip to Michigan, where
Emma's extended family lived, to celebrate E.M.F.'s
birthday. Even though Matthew described that trip as a brief
vacation, Emma maintained that it was her intent to move to
Michigan at that time. Nonetheless, they all returned to
Texas, where they remained until July 5 or 6, when Emma and
E.M.F. moved to Michigan.
Matthew filed his Original Petition in Suit Affecting the
Parent-Child Relationship (Original SAPCR Petition) in the Texas
Court. In his Original SAPCR Petition, Matthew alleged,
"No court has continuing jurisdiction of this suit or of
the child the subject of this suit" and asked (1) that
he and Emma be named joint managing conservators of E.M.F.,
(2) that he have the exclusive right to designate the primary
residence of E.M.F., (3) that Emma be ordered to pay child
support, and (4) that the trial court enter temporary orders
after notice and a hearing. A hearing on Matthew's
request for temporary orders was set for July 27, and Emma
was ordered to appear. Despite having been served with the
Original SAPCR Petition and the order to appear, Emma failed
to appear at the hearing. After a short hearing, the Texas
Court entered temporary orders.
August 30, Matthew filed his First Amended Petition in SAPCR
and Original Petition for Divorce. In the SAPCR portion of
the amended petition, Matthew noted that the trial court had
entered temporary orders and that there were no other
"court-ordered conservatorships, court-ordered
guardianships, or other court-ordered relationships
affecting" E.M.F. On September 6, Emma filed her Counter
Petition in SAPCR and Counter Petition for Divorce (Counter
Petition) in the Texas Court, in which she also asked for
child custody orders. Emma attached an Out-of-State Party
Declaration (Declaration) as Exhibit C to the Counter
Petition. In the Declaration, Emma declared under penalty of
perjury that she had not taken part in any other court case
about E.M.F. in Texas, or in any other state or country, and
that she did not know of any other court case that could
affect this case, including custody, visitation, or child
support, among other things.
September 10, the Texas Court signed an order requiring Emma
to appear on September 26 and respond to Matthew's motion
to enforce the trial court's temporary orders. On
September 20, Emma filed a complaint in the Michigan Court
and obtained an emergency ex parte child custody order under
the temporary emergency provisions of the UCCJEA.
See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 152.204; Mich. Comp.
Laws Ann. § 722.1204. In support of her emergency
motion, Emma attached an affidavit in which she alleged that
Matthew had committed domestic violence against her and had
physically abused his seven-year-old son, D.F. After
consulting with the Michigan Court,  on September 26, the Texas
Court held a hearing to determine whether it had jurisdiction
under the UCCJEA.
hearing, Emma testified that the family moved to Texas on
March 1 and that she and E.M.F. left Texas on July 5 or 6.
While she and E.M.F. were living in Texas, they had no family
nearby and no close friends, E.M.F. was not in daycare or
school, and they did not attend church. She also testified
that after they moved to Michigan, she had family support
from her mother, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and stepfather.
She explained that she had gone to work as a school bus
driver and that her mother babysat E.M.F. while she was
working. She also explained that E.M.F. had a friend that he
saw at least once a week, a pediatrician, and a church. Emma
stated that Matthew's son, D.F., acted like he did not
like E.M.F. and that he had hit and kicked E.M.F. several
testified that he, Emma, and E.M.F. moved to Texas on
February 28 and that they had taken a brief one-week vacation
in Michigan. He denied that E.M.F. had any connection to
Michigan before July 9, other than the brief vacation. He
denied that he ever committed domestic violence against Emma
and stated that he had cooperated with a Child Protective
Services (CPS) investigation concerning the allegations of
physical abuse. He also testified that he had received a
closure letter from CPS saying that there was nothing to the
the hearing, the Texas Court determined that it had
jurisdiction to hear the case because E.M.F. and Matthew had
a significant connection with Texas and substantial evidence
was available in Texas about the child's care,
protection, training, and personal relationships.
See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 152.201(a)(2). The
Michigan Court then dismissed Emma's complaint and
rescinded its emergency ex parte temporary orders.