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In re J.B.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

December 18, 2013

IN THE INTEREST OF J.B., D.B., B.B., and J.G.B.

From the 37th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2012-PA-00294 Honorable Fred Shannon, Judge Presiding.[1]

Karen Angelini, Justice, Rebeca C. Martinez, Justice, Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Karen Angelini, Justice.

This is an appeal from an order terminating Jonathan B.'s parental rights to his children, J.B., D.B., B.B., and J.G.B. Jonathan B. appeals, arguing that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to render orders in the underlying termination proceeding. We affirm.

Background

Jonathan B. and his step-daughter, Courtney P., are the parents of J.B., D.B., B.B., and J.G.B. At the termination hearing, Jonathan B. testified that he and Courtney P. have been in a relationship since Courtney P. was eighteen years-old. Despite being in a relationship and having children with Courtney P., Jonathan B. has remained married to Courtney P.'s mother.[2] Jonathan B. and Courtney P. have moved from state to state, and have been the subject of two prior CPS proceedings in other states. Jonathan B. testified that these proceedings were the result of his "turning in" Courtney P. for her drug use. He admitted that one of their babies died shortly after being born. And, he admitted that B.B. was born with drugs in her system.

The underlying parental termination proceeding began when Courtney P. gave birth to J.G.B. in San Antonio, Texas, and a referral was made based on neglect. The Department of Family and Protective Services ("the Department") filed a petition seeking the termination of Jonathan B.'s and Courtney P.'s parental rights to J.G.B. The Department later amended its petition to also seek the removal of their three other children: J.B., D.B., and B.B. After a bench trial, the trial court terminated both Jonathan B.'s and Courtney P.'s parental rights. With regard to Jonathan B., the trial court found that he had (1) executed and filed with the court an irrevocable affidavit of relinquishment as to J.G.B.; (2) knowingly placed or knowingly allowed J.B., D.B., and B.B. to remain in conditions or surroundings that endangered the physical or emotional well-being of the children; (3) engaged in conduct or knowingly placed J.B., D.B., and B.B. with persons who engaged in conduct that endangered the physical or emotional well-being of the children; and (4) failed to comply with provisions of a court order that specifically established the actions necessary for him to obtain the return of the children who had been in the permanent or temporary managing conservatorship of the Department for not less than nine months as a result of the children's removal from the parent under chapter 262 for the abuse or neglect of the children. Jonathan B. then filed a notice of appeal.[3]

Discussion

In his only issue on appeal, Jonathan B. argues the trial court lacked jurisdiction to make any orders in this case. He emphasizes that at the onset of the case, the Department filed an affidavit seeking temporary orders relating to the custody of the children. According to Jonathan B., this affidavit acknowledged the existence of a Utah order, which granted custody of the children to him. Jonathan B. acknowledges that the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act ("UCCJEA"), which has been adopted by Texas, allows Texas to seek emergency jurisdiction over a child even when there is a pre-existing custody order issued by another state. However, Jonathan B. claims that the Department failed to follow the proper procedure to take emergency jurisdiction over the children and thus the trial court lacked jurisdiction to make any orders concerning the conservatorship of the children.[4] The Department responds that the record does not support a Utah court having exclusive, continuing jurisdiction pursuant to the UCCJEA, and thus the trial court had jurisdiction to sign the termination order in this case.

As noted, the Department initiated the underlying case when it received a referral of neglect concerning J.G.B., a newborn.[5] The Department's Original Petition for Protection of a Child, for Conservatorship, and for Termination in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship sought termination of Jonathan B.'s parental rights to J.G.B. Jonathan B. argues that the affidavit attached to the Department's petition "acknowledged the existence of a Utah order granting custody." However, the affidavit's reference to a Utah order is a mere recitation of what Jonathan B. and Courtney P. told the Department's caseworker.

Specifically, in the affidavit, the caseworker discussed Jonathan B. and Courtney P.'s practice of moving from state to state to avoid child protective services. The affidavit affirmed the following facts:

• the family has a history with child protective services in several states, including Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Utah, and Kentucky;
• Courtney P. had a history of using crack cocaine;
• the family home in Ohio had been "shot up as a result of a bad ...

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