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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:This is an appeal from a judgment terminating the parental rights of a mother and a father to three minor children. The presiding judge of the trial court referred the petition for termination of the parent-child relationships to an associate judge. Based on the jury’s verdict, the associate judge recommended in her report that both parents’ parental rights be terminated as to all three children. In adopting the associate judge’s report, the presiding judge of the trial court determined that the parents had no right to appeal the associate judge’s report, because the parents did not object to the referral of this matter to the associate judge under �201.005(c) of the Family Code. The presiding judge made this determination even though the parents had timely appealed the associate judge’s report under ��201.015 and 201.2042 of the Family Code. Based on this determination, the presiding judge of the trial court refused to hear the parents’ appeal of the associate judge’s report. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded. CPS asserted in its motion, and the trial court agreed, that a party who fails to timely object to the referral to an associate judge under �201.005(c) of the Family Code waives his right to appeal to the referring court and must appeal directly to the court of appeals. The language in �201.005 upon which CPS relies appears to apply only to bench trials. Even if the language in question applied to an associate judge’s report following a jury trial, it does not state that the parties must appeal directly to the court of appeals without appealing to the referring court. Under CPS’s statutory construction, an associate judge’s report would constitute the final order of the referring court, with no opportunity for any party to appeal to the referring court, in every case tried to an associate judge and in every jury trial over which an associate judge presided. CPS’ construction would render Texas Family Code �201.015 meaningless as to all parties involved in trials conducted by associate judges. The court notes that the associate judge in this case was appointed under Subchapter C of Chapter 201 of the Family Code. Appeals to the referring court from reports of associate judges appointed under this provision are governed by �201.2042. The court concludes that that the language in �201.005(b) and (c) does not deprive parties of their right to appeal to the referring court. OPINION:Frost, J.; Hudson, Frost and Seymore, JJ.

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