Veronica and Bryan divorced while Veronica was pregnant by David. Prior to divorce, Veronica and Bryan entered into a mediated settlement agreement. The MSA appointed Veronica and Bryan joint managing conservators. Veronica had the right to establish their child’s primary residence, subject to a geographic restriction. But after only a little more than three months, Veronica wanted the geographic restriction lifted. She did not succeed. In re B.L.J.P., No. 04-14-00015-CV (Tex. App. – San Antonio Oct. 8, 2014) (mem. op.).
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Modification of Conservatorship
Citing Texas Family Code section 156.101(a), the court of appeals set forth the law:
A trial court may modify the terms and conditions of conservatorship only if the modification is in the child’s best interest, and the circumstances of the child, a conservator, or other party affected by the order have materially and substantially changed.
When a decree is based on an MSA, whether a material and substantial change has occurred is measured from the date the parties signed the MSA.
Arguments for Material and Substantial Change
Veronica argued that there had been a material and substantial change in circumstances because, since she signed the MSA, she had married David, she had given birth to David’s child, and David received military orders stationing him outside the geographic area she had agreed to with Bryan. Veronica hinged her argument on her contention that the trial court erroneously found that she was already engaged to David when she signed the MSA. David testified that he proposed to Veronica after Veronica signed the MSA. Therefore, said Veronica, her engagement amounted to a material and substantial change in circumstances.
Nailing Down the Date of Engagement
As appellate courts sometimes are wont to do, the Fourth District decided to buy into Veronica’s argument and then refute it rather than reject it outright. Thus, the court appeared to assume that the mere fact of becoming engaged could amount to a material and substantial change of circumstances. The court noted Veronica’s testimony that she and David got engaged about three weeks after Veronica discovered she was pregnant. Because Veronica made that discovery about a month before signing the MSA, the evidence supported the trial court’s finding that Veronica had become engaged by the time she signed the MSA. Therefore, when all was said and done, there had been no change of circumstances warranting relocation.