The Texas Family Code includes complex provisions governing standing to file suit. In L.H. v. Texas Dep’t of Fam. & Prot. Servs., No. 03-13-00348-CV (Tex. App. – Austin Mar. 6, 2014) (mem. op.), the Austin Court of Appeals joined another court in concluding that one of those provisions limits, rather than grants, standing.
Maternal Grandmother Sought Conservatorship
In L.H., the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services filed suit to terminate the parental rights of both parents. The children’s maternal grandmother intervened in the suit. The parents later relinquished their parental rights, after which the grandmother nonsuited her petition in intervention. The trial court then signed a decree terminating parental rights.
Within ninety days following the final decree, the grandmother filed suit to modify the parent-child relationship, seeking appointment as the children’s managing conservator. The trial court dismissed the grandmother’s petition for want of jurisdiction based on a lack of standing.
Grandmother’s Basis for Standing
The grandmother argued that she had standing under section 102.006 of the Texas Family Code, which the Austin Court of Appeals excerpted as follows:
(a) Except as provided by Subsections (b) and (c), if the parent-child relationship between the child and every living parent of the child has been terminated, an original suit may not be filed by:
. . .
(3) a family member or relative by blood, adoption, or marriage of either a former parent whose parent-child relationship has been terminated or of the father of the child.
. . .
(c) The limitations on filing suit imposed by this section do not apply to . . . a grandparent of the child . . . if the . . . grandparent . . . files an original suit or a suit for modification requesting managing conservatorship of the child not later than the 90th day after the date the parent-child relationship between the child and the parent is terminated in a suit filed by the Department of Family and Protective Services requesting the termination of the parent-child relationship.
The grandmother contended that because she had filed suit within ninety days of the date of termination, she had standing to seek modification of conservatorship.
Statute Limits, Not Grants, Standing
The Austin Court disagreed. The court held that section 102.006 “expressly does not confer standing but limits the standing of persons who would otherwise have standing.” In other words, the section limits the time to ninety days post-decree within which persons who already have standing must file a petition for modification. The court cited three cases from the San Antonio Court of Appeals in support of its decision: In re N.A.D., 397 S.W.3d 747, 749 (Tex. App. – San Antonio 2013, no pet.); In re J.C., 399 S.W.3d 235, 239 (Tex. App. – San Antonio 2012, no pet.); and In re A.M., 312 S.W.3d 76, 81 (Tex. App. – San Antonio 2010, pet. denied).