Standby Conservator Has Standing to File Modification Suit

A child’s mother, maternal grandmother and half-sister were killed in a house fire. Not long afterward, the child’s father was incarcerated. Because the child had been living with its paternal grandmother, the trial court appointed the paternal grandmother as a joint conservator with the right to designate the child’s residence. The trial court also appointed the child’s maternal grandfather as a joint managing conservator and the child’s maternal aunt as an alternate joint managing conservator in the event of the maternal grandfather’s death or incapacity.

After the paternal grandmother engaged in a lengthy course of events designed to alienate the child from the mother’s side of the family, the maternal grandfather and aunt successfully petitioned the trial court to remove the paternal grandmother as a managing conservator and deny her possession of and access to the child.

On appeal, the paternal grandmother argued that the maternal aunt had no standing to seek modification of the trial court’s order because she served only as an alternate joint managing conservator. But the Texarkana Court of Appeals rejected this argument, observing that section 156.002 of the Texas Family Code allows a “party affected by an order” to file suit for modification. Even though the maternal aunt had no present conservatorship rights under the prior order, she nonetheless was “affected” by the order because she would assume the role of a joint managing conservator should the maternal grandfather die or become incapacitated. In re K.C.B., No. 06-13-00083-CV (Tex. App. – Texarkana Feb. 12, 2014) (mem. op.) (citingĀ In re J.R., 222 S.W.3d 817, 818-19 & n.5 (Tex. App. – Houston [14th Dist.] 2007, pet. denied)).

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