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In re A.R.G.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

December 11, 2013

IN THE INTEREST OF A.R.G., A.L.G., and J.P.C., Children

From the 288th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas. Trial Court No. 2012-PA-01536. Honorable Michael E. Mery, Judge Presiding[1]

For APPELLANT: Christina L. Falkiewicz, Christina L. Falkiewicz, P.C., San Antonio, TX.

For APPELLEE: Jay Brandon, Assistant District Attorney, San Antonio, TX.

OPINION

Sandee Bryan Marion, Judge.

This is an appeal from the trial court's termination of appellant's parental rights to her three children. On appeal, appellant challenges the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence in support of the trial court's findings. Because the termination order in this case prevents this court from conducting a proper sufficiency review, we reverse and remand.

DISCUSSION

The Department sought to terminate appellant's parental rights on seventeen different grounds. A trial court " may order termination of the parent-child relationship

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if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence" at least one of the statutory grounds and that termination is in the child's best interest. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(1), (2) (West Supp. 2013). " If the court finds by clear and convincing evidence grounds for termination of the parent-child relationship, it shall render an order terminating the parent-child relationship." Id. § 161.206(a) (West 2008). " An order rendered under this section must include a finding that: (1) a request for identification of a court of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction has been made as required by Section 155.101; and (2) all parties entitled to notice, including the Title IV-D agency, have been notified." Id. § 161.206(d).

In this case, at the conclusion of the termination hearing, the associate judge hearing the case took the matter under advisement; therefore, there are no oral findings. The clerk's record contains a hand-written " Associate Judge's Report and Order" in which the trial court writes " Mother's parental rights terminated on grounds of c/a and fail [sic] to do FSP." The order does not identify the " Pat uncle & aunt" who were appointed as " Jt, M/C." The order does not identify the father who was appointed " PC." The order does not identify the mother whose parental rights were terminated. The order contains no identifying information about the children subject to the order. The order also contains no explicit finding that termination of appellant's parental rights is in the children's best interest. Finally, the order does not contain the section 161.206 findings.

An " Associate Judge's Report and Order" is a final appealable termination order.[2]See In re A.W., 384 S.W.3d 872 (Tex. App.--San Antonio 2012, no pet.). However, here, this court, the parties, and any other interested party can only guess the meaning of the judge's short-hand, abbreviated notes and assume implicit findings. The lack of a best interest finding, the lack of any identifying information, and the trial court's use of vague abbreviations for the grounds of termination place this court in the position of reviewing the evidence in support of findings about which we must speculate because the findings are either vague or totally absent. Because we cannot conduct a proper review of the ...


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