Carroll v. Couch

In Carroll v. Couch, 624 S.W.2d 398 (Tex.App.--Fort Worth 1981, no writ), the parents were divorced in Tarrant County in 1977. The mother moved to Wichita County while the father moved to Oklahoma. The mother subsequently brought suit in Wichita County, first for the collection of child support arrearages and second, for termination of the father's parental rights. In response, the father sought to modify visitation and to recover attorney's fees. The trial court granted the termination and the father appealed. The court of appeals sua sponte reversed and dismissed the cause for want of jurisdiction: At no time was there a motion for transfer of the Tarrant County court's continuing jurisdiction, which it had obtained by reason of the original divorce decree. No question of jurisdiction was raised in the trial court by either the petitioner or the cross-petitioner. Both parties alleged that the court had jurisdiction as a result of prior proceedings. Carroll, 624 S.W.2d at 399. The Court then noted that transfer would have been mandatory upon proper application. But because jurisdiction cannot be conferred by agreement, nor can lack of jurisdiction be waived, continuing jurisdiction rested exclusively with the court in Tarrant County. Id. In Carroll v. Couch, the court of appeals reversed a Wichita County court's judgment terminating a father's parental rights after the court of appeals determined that a Tarrant County court had continuing and exclusive jurisdiction over the children by virtue of a divorce decree it had issued years earlier. See id. at 398-99. The court of appeals also determined that while the Tarrant County court was required to transfer the case to the Wichita County court if requested to do so, because the children resided in Wichita County at the time the case was filed, no request for transfer was ever made. See id. As a result, the matter was never transferred to the Wichita County court. See id. The court of appeals further reasoned that because the Tarrant County court remained the court of continuing and exclusive jurisdiction, the Wichita County court did not have jurisdiction in the case when it issued the order terminating the father's parental rights. See id. at 399.