Court of Appeals of Texas, Seventh District, Amarillo
Appeal from the 100th District Court Donley County, Texas
Trial Court No. 7435, Honorable Stuart Messer, Presiding
QUINN, C.J., and PIRTLE and PARKER, JJ.
Quinn, Chief Justice.
of the child, C.R., appeals the order terminating his
parental rights. Through a single issue, he contends the
trial court lacked jurisdiction to enter the order. It
purportedly lacked jurisdiction because trial had not
commenced within the time period mandated by statute. We
to the appellate record, the Department of Family and
Protective Services (the Department) filed an "Original
Petition for Protection of a Child, for Conservatorship, and
for Termination in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child
Relationship." The document was filed marked June 4,
2018. Then, the trial court entered an order, signed June 4,
2018, naming the Department "temporary sole managing
conservator of the child." That order contained the
following recital: "On June 1, 2018, the Department . .
. presented its Petition to the Court."
order signed on October 23, 2018, the trial court designated
June 10, 2019, as the date on which suit would be dismissed
if trial were not commenced by then. No one objected to that
designation. Subsequently, the cause was set for a final
hearing on June 7, 2019.
17, 2019, appellant filed a "Motion to Retain Suit on
Court's Docket and Set New Dismissal Date." Therein,
Father appellant alleged that the date the Court
"rendered an order appointing the [Department] managing
conservator" was "June 4, 2018," and that the
"date for dismissal [was] June 10, 2019." He also
moved for a continuance of the June 7th final hearing.
However, the record fails to indicate whether the court acted
upon either motion.
record does reflect, though, that on June 7th the court held
"a Permanency Hearing Before Final Order" and
extended its former dismissal date to December 4, 2019. So,
too did it designate August 1, 2019, as the date for final
hearing. On August 1, 2019, appellant filed his "Motion
to Dismiss for Want of Jurisdiction and for Return of the
Child." The proceeding was not dismissed. Rather, the
trial court ordered that the parental relationship between
Father and C.R. be terminated after Father, on August 1,
2019, tendered an "Affidavit of Voluntary Relinquishment
of Parental Rights to the Department of Family and Protective
Services." The order terminating the relationship was
signed on August 14, 2019.
to appellant, the Department was named temporary managing
conservator of the child on June 1, 2018. Furthermore,
statute required trial to commence by the Monday following
the first anniversary date on which the Department was
appointed conservator, unless the deadline was extended by
the trial court within that one-year period. The following
Monday after the first anniversary date was June 3, 2018.
Because trial had not begun by June 3rd and any attempt to
extend the deadline had not occurred until after June 3rd,
the trial court allegedly lost jurisdiction over the
proceeding on June 3rd. Thus, it could neither execute the
June 7th order extending the dismissal deadline nor order
termination of father's parental rights. We overrule the
noted by appellant, section 263.401 of the Texas Family Code
Unless the court has commenced the trial on the merits or
granted an extension under Subsection (b) or (b-1), on the
first Monday after the first anniversary of the date the
court rendered a temporary order appointing the department as
temporary managing conservator, the court's
jurisdiction over the suit affecting the parent-child
relationship filed by the department that requests
termination of the parent-child relationship or requests that
the department be named conservator of the child is
terminated and the suit is automatically dismissed without a
court order. Not later than the 60th day before the day the
suit is automatically dismissed, the court shall notify all
parties to the suit of the automatic dismissal date.
Tex. Fam Code Ann. § 263.401 (a) (West Supp. 2019)
(emphasis added). Per that statute, dismissal could be
avoided by commencing trial. Or, per § 263.401(b) of the
Code, it could avoid dismissal by, among other things,
rendering an order designating a "new dismissal
date" within 180 days "after the time ...