A Texas appeals court recently decided a Texas family law case involving a court’s jurisdiction to issue a protective order while a divorce proceeding is pending before another court. In that case, the wife filed a petition for divorce from the husband. The following year, while the divorce petition was pending, the wife filed an application for a protective order. The court issued a final protective order in favor of the wife, and the husband appealed the order. The husband argued in part that the protective order was void because the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the case. The husband argued that because a divorce proceeding was pending in a different court, the court could not issue a protective order.
Subject-matter jurisdiction refers to a court’s ability to hear and determine a certain type of case. Some courts only have subject-matter jurisdiction over certain types of cases, such as traffic courts and juvenile courts.
In this case, the wife filed the application for a protective order in the 280th District Court, which is designated as the domestic violence district court for Harris County, and which gives preference for domestic violence cases. The wife resided in Harris County, which is why she filed in that county. However, the husband argued that the application for a protective order must be filed in the court in which the divorce proceeding is pending, according to Texas’s Family Code.
The court found that although the Family Code states that a protective order must be filed in the court in which the divorce proceeding is pending, there is no consequence for failing to comply, and the Family Code also states that a final protective order may be rendered by a different court than the one in which the divorce proceeding is pending. The court explains that according to the Family Code if a protective order is issued by another court, the other court must inform the clerk of the court in which the divorce proceeding is pending, and forward a copy of the final protective order to the court in which the divorce proceeding is pending. Thus, the court held that another court may have subject-matter jurisdiction over the protective order. The court also found that the husband could have challenged the venue or dominant jurisdiction of the case, but failed to make a timely challenge to those issues while the application for a protective order was pending. Therefore, the court held that the 280th District Court had jurisdiction over the wife’s application for protective order and that it remained valid.
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