C. Monitored Return

At any stage of the case, the court may order a monitored return of the child to a parent with DFPS remaining as temporary managing conservator. The monitored return cannot be for more than 180 days unless court grants a request for an additional six months under Tex. Fam. Code § 263.403(a-1). However, the monitored return may be ordered without regard to the other deadlines.

1. Findings and Orders Required for a Monitored Return

The court may retain jurisdiction and not dismiss the suit if the court renders a temporary order that:

•   Finds that retaining jurisdiction is in the best interest of the child;

•   Orders DFPS to:

◦   return the child to the child's parent; or

◦   transition the child, according to a schedule determined by DFPS or the court from substitute care to the parent while the parent completes the remaining requirements imposed under a service plan and specified in the temporary order that are necessary for the child's return;

•   Orders DFPS to continue to serve as temporary managing conservator of the child; and

•   Orders DFPS to monitor the child's placement to ensure that the child is in a safe environment. Tex. Fam. Code § 263.403(a).

Unless the court has already granted an extension under Tex. Fam. Code § 263.401(b), DFPS or the parent may request an additional six months to complete the remaining requirements in a service plan and specified in the temporary order that are mandatory for the child's return. Tex. Fam. Code § 263.403(a-1). If the court has already granted a six-month extension based on extraordinary circumstances under Tex. Fam. Code § 263.403(b), the extension offered under Tex. Fam. Code § 263.403(a-1) is not available.

If the court renders an order under Tex. Fam. Code § 263.403, the court shall:

•   Include in the order specific findings regarding the grounds for the order; and

•   Schedule a new date, not later than the 180th day after the date the temporary order is rendered, for dismissal of the suit unless a trial on the merits has commenced. Tex. Fam. Code § 263.403(b).

2. Failed Monitored Return

If before the dismissal of the suit or the commencement of the trial on the merits a child placed with a parent under Tex. Fam. Code § 263.403 must be moved from that home or the court renders a temporary order terminating the transition order issued under Tex. Fam. Code §263.403(a)(2)(B), the court shall, at the time of the move or order, schedule a new date for dismissal of the suit. The new dismissal date may not be later than the original dismissal date established under Tex. Fam. Code § 263.401 or the 180th day after the date the child is moved or the order is rendered under Tex. Fam. Code § 263.403(c), whichever date is later. Tex. Fam. Code § 263.403(c).

An order terminating a parent's rights after a failed monitored return was upheld as the clear and unambiguous language of Tex. Fam. Code § 263.403(c) allowed for the order to be entered after the 18 months authorized by Tex. Fam. Code § 263.401. In re J.W.M., 153 S.W.3d 541, 545 (Tex. App.—Amarillo 2004, pet. denied). See also In re Neal, 4 S.W.3d 443 (Tex. App.—Houston [1 Dist.] 1999, orig. proceeding). If the court renders an order, the court must include in the order specific findings regarding the grounds for the order. Tex. Fam. Code § 263.403(d).