Court of Appeals of Texas, Ninth District, Beaumont
Submitted on January 5, 2017
Appeal from the 418th District Court Montgomery County, Texas
Trial Cause No. 09-10-09572-CV
McKeithen, C.J., Kreger and Johnson, JJ.
McKEITHEN Chief Justice
a pro se appeal by M.H., the father of D.S.H.,
from the trial court's order in a suit to modify the
parent-child relationship. In ten appellate issues, M.H.
challenges (1) the finality of the trial court's order,
(2) the veracity of the evidence adduced at the temporary
order hearing, (3) whether the trial court erred by not
providing an interpreter at the temporary orders hearing to
assist M.H. due to his hearing difficulties, (4) the
sufficiency of the evidence supporting the jury's verdict
regarding conservatorship, and (5) the trial court's
calculation of the amount of child support it ordered M.H. to
pay. We affirm the trial court's order in part and
reverse and remand in part.
child's mother, A.H., filed a petition to modify the
parent-child relationship, in which she asserted that
circumstances had materially and substantially changed since
the order to be modified was signed. A.H. asserted that
D.S.H. was twelve years of age or older and would express his
desires to the court regarding the parent who he felt should
have the exclusive right to designate his primary residence.
A.H. requested that she be appointed the person with the
exclusive right to designate D.S.H.'s primary residence
and requested that she be named sole managing conservator.
A.H. alleged that M.H. has a history of child neglect
directed against D.S.H. and asked the court to require that
M.H.'s periods of visitation "be continuously
supervised by an entity or person chosen by the Court."
A.H. requested that the trial court enter temporary orders
and a temporary restraining order, and she sought an order
requiring M.H. to pay child support.
filed an answer, as well as a counter-petition to modify the
parent-child relationship. M.H. contended in his
counter-petition that A.H. should be restricted to one visit
with D.S.H. per month or a possession order should be
entered, and M.H. maintained that A.H. "has a history or
pattern of child neglect directed against the child[.]"
M.H. asserted that circumstances had materially and
substantially changed and that the child support payments
previously ordered should be terminated. According to M.H.,
the support payments previously ordered do not comply with
the guidelines contained in Chapter 154 of the Texas Family
Code, and termination of the child support would be in
D.S.H.'s best interest. M.H. pleaded that A.H.
"should be ordered to pay child support, . . . health
insurance premiums for coverage on the child, and 50 percent
of the child's uninsured medical expenses." M.H.
also requested the entry of temporary orders. Although M.H.
alleged that the ordered child support did not comply with
Chapter 154 of the Texas Family Code,  M.H. did not
request credit for social security payments D.S.H. was
receiving due to M.H.'s disability in his answer or his
counter-petition. M.H. filed a motion requesting the
appointment of an interpreter to assist him during the
proceedings due to his hearing problem, and he subsequently
filed a second motion requesting appointment of an
interpreter and modification of court procedures.
conducting a hearing on the requests for a temporary order,
the court appointed A.H. and M.H. as temporary joint managing
conservators and awarded A.H. the exclusive right to
determine D.S.H.'s residence. The trial court also gave
A.H. the exclusive right to receive child support and to make
medical and dental decisions, psychological treatment
decisions, and educational decisions for D.S.H. As part of
the temporary order, the trial court entered a standard
possession order, under which M.H. elected to exercise
possession of D.S.H. on the first, third, and fifth weekends
of the month. In addition, the trial court determined that
M.H.'s net resources per month are $1733.45 and
A.H.'s net resources are $0, and "[t]he percentage
applied to the first $8, 550 of [M.H.]'s net resources
for child support is twenty percent. The trial court also
signed a separate order requiring M.H.'s employer to
withhold $396.69 per month for child support.
trial,  which occurred approximately two years
after the trial court entered temporary orders, A.H.
testified that she and M.H. divorced in 2007, and she
currently resides with her fiancé, her mother, her
three other children, and D.S.H. A.H. explained that she was
awarded primary custody of D.S.H. under the temporary orders,
and she testified that D.S.H. was doing well and making good
grades. A.H. testified that she and D.S.H. have a close
relationship and D.S.H. confides in her. A.H. testified that
if she were awarded primary custody of D.S.H., she could
communicate with M.H. and they could agree on decisions
regarding D.S.H.'s medical care and education. A.H.
testified that M.H. receives disability, so D.S.H. also
receives disability payments. A.H. testified that although
D.S.H. was ordered to begin paying child support two years
ago when the temporary order was entered, he only paid child
support for ten months. A.H. testified that M.H. had only
exercised his visitation rights a few times since the
temporary orders were entered.
to A.H., when D.S.H. was living with M.H., D.S.H. told A.H.
that he was having a hard time, could not take it anymore,
and intended to run away. A.H. explained that D.S.H. had run
away at least three times, had stolen money from M.H., and
had been in jail, but since D.S.H. has been living with her,
he has not been in any trouble. A.H. expressed concern that
D.S.H.'s previous issues would return if he went back to
live with his father. During cross-examination, A.H.
testified that she currently resides in a four-bedroom
trailer, and D.S.H. has his own room. A.H. testified that she
is currently on welfare. A.H. testified that M.H. neglected
D.S.H. by not providing for his needs and being unable to
stop D.S.H. from running away, and she explained that she had
seen photographs D.S.H. had taken of the travel trailer where
he had resided with his father. A.H. testified that when she
picked up D.S.H., he had a trash bag filled with some items,
but she did not look through the items because she was
concerned with comforting D.S.H.
who was seventeen and a half years old at the time of trial,
testified that he currently resides with his mother, three
siblings, stepdad, and grandmother, and he has his own room.
D.S.H. testified that he is maintaining "pretty
good" grades at school, and is involved in
extracurricular activities and a work program. D.S.H. also
testified that he has been accepted to a junior college and
has applied to another college. D.S.H. explained that, with
the exception of the trial, he feels positive about his life,
and he enjoys living with his mother. In addition, D.S.H.
testified that he faces consequences from his mother if he
slacks academically or at work. D.S.H. testified that he has
a good relationship with his mother.
explained that he felt that if he were sent to live with his
father, all of the progress he has made will "wash
away[.]" D.S.H. described his relationship with his
father as "rough" and lacking any "bonding
time." D.S.H. explained that he lived with his father
for several years in an R.V. park, and his father eventually
bought a piece of land, put a steel building on the land, and
put bunk beds in the building. According to D.S.H., when he
and M.H. first moved into the steel building, they had no
electricity, running water, or indoor kitchen. D.S.H.
testified that he and his father cooked on a propane unit
that was "outside in the woods . . . by the
cabin[.]" According to D.S.H., his father had a gas
generator that ran for two to three hours per day. D.S.H.
testified that his father sometimes locked him in the cabin.
D.S.H. explained that the living conditions were so harsh
that he could not stand living there, and he believes that
his father still lives in the same building. D.S.H. testified
that when he went to live with his mother, M.H. only
exercised visitation two or three times, and when M.H. came
to get him, M.H. argued with him and told him he was ruining
his life. D.S.H. explained that M.H. recently tried to pick
him up for a visit, but D.S.H. was fearful and did not feel
comfortable going with M.H. because "he just started
immediately yelling at me like usual and saying negative
to D.S.H., M.H. has slapped him across the face two or three
times when D.S.H. was fourteen or fifteen years old. D.S.H.
explained that on one occasion, his father gave him $100, 000
in cash and instructed him to bury it on the property. D.S.H.
kept some of the money, but his father caught him with the
money and later pressed charges. D.S.H. testified that he had
undergone testing by psychiatrists because his father
insisted that "there was something wrong with me in my
head[, ]" but the doctors concluded that D.S.H. was
"just a stressed teenager[.]" ...