In a recent case involving the right of parents to designate the primary residence of their two children, a Texas Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court decision, granting the mother of the children the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the two children, as well as striking down the father’s claim that the lower court failed to issue findings of fact and conclusions of law. The couple was married in 2012 and are the parents of two children. In June 2019 the father filed for divorce, asserting the marriage had become insupportable, and in July 2019, the mother filed an answer and her own original petition for divorce, asserting the marriage had become insupportable. During the course of the divorce negotiations, the trial court signed a final decree of divorce incorporating the pronouncements of a mediated settlement agreement (MSA) between the mother and father. Shortly thereafter, the father filed a request for findings of fact and conclusion of law and a notice of appeal.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, the mother and father were married in February 2012. In 2019, when both mother and father filed for divorce, the two parties entered into an MSA to address multiple issues, ranging from child support payments, division of property, and division of debts. One issue that they could not agree on was who would be awarded exclusive rights to designate the primary residence of their children. The final decree signed by the trial court incorporated aspects of the MSA, including appointing the mother to be the parent with the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of both children contrary to the recommendation of the child custody evaluator.
On appeal, the father made two claims, arguing that (1) the trial court abused its discretion by choosing the mother the parent with exclusive rights to designate the primary residence of both children contrary to the recommendation of the child custody evaluator, and (2) failing to issue findings of fact and conclusion of law.
Regarding the first claim, the appellate court found that trial courts have broad discretion with respect to issues such as custody, control, possession, support, and visitation matters. The appeals court stated that a trial court abuses its discretion by acting arbitrarily, unreasonably, or without reference to any guiding principles. The court does not abuse its discretion as long as there is some evidence that a substantive and probative character exists to support the trial court decision. On this claim the appeals court affirmed the lower court, finding enough evidence in the record to support the trial decision.
On the second claim, the appellate court found that an appellant generally is harmed when there are two or more possible grounds on which the court could have ruled and the appellant is left to guess the basis of the trial court’s ruling effectively preventing the appellant from properly presenting his case on appeal. In this case, the issue at hand is relatively simple, and the father failed to identify any issue that he was unable to brief as a result of the trial court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law. As a result, the appeals court affirmed the lower court decision.
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