Court of Appeals of Texas, Twelfth District, Tyler
FROM THE 354TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT RAINS COUNTY, TEXAS
consisted of Worthen, C.J., Hoyle, J., and Neeley, J.
T. Worthen Chief Justice.
appeals the denial of his petition for a bill of review. In
four issues, he challenges the trial court's judgment. We
reverse and remand.
and S.L. were married in 2007 and lived in California. Z.Q.
testified that in 2009, S.L. traveled to Texas to visit her
mother and take care of some criminal matters. According to
records admitted at trial, S.L. gave birth to E.C.Q.L. in
Texas in September 2010. According to Z.Q., he did not know
that S.L. was pregnant. Patricia Skelton, a Department of
Family and Protective Services (the Department)
conservatorship worker, stated that the baby tested positive
for drugs at birth. Initially, the Department filed an
original petition for termination of S.L.'s parental
rights, naming another person as E.C.Q.L.'s alleged
father. The Department was appointed temporary managing
conservator of the child. The caseworker's records show
that S.L. announced during a court hearing on March 14, 2011,
that she was married to Z.Q. and that he was the father of
the child. Z.Q. testified that S.L. told him in early 2011,
that she had given birth to E.C.Q.L. At that time, he said,
S.L. told him that E.C.Q.L. was in the "temporary"
custody of the government until her criminal cases were
March 31, 2011, the Department filed a first amended original
petition for protection of E.C.Q.L., for conservatorship, and
for termination of Z.Q.'s parental rights. From the
records admitted at trial, it appears that Z.Q. was appointed
counsel. According to Skelton, S.L. provided the Department
with a Fresno, California business address, and a telephone
number for Z.Q. In records admitted at the hearing, Julie
Tolson, the Department caseworker, noted that she attempted
to contact Z.Q. at the telephone number provided by S.L. She
did not receive an answer, but left a message for him. The
next day, the CASA volunteer told Tolson that she also
attempted to contact Z.Q. She called the telephone number and
a woman answered. However, she said, there was a
"language barrier" and she did not get much
information from the woman who answered the telephone.
Moreover, the CASA volunteer was not sure if the woman would
be able to give Z.Q. a message to return the telephone call.
to Tolson's affidavit, she stated that Z.Q. was unknown
to her and that he was a "transient person." She
said that she sent a notice regarding the child to Z.Q. at
the Fresno business address by certified mail, return receipt
requested. The "green card" was signed by a person
whose signature did not appear to be Z.Q.'s. Tolson also
stated that inquiries to the Diligent Search Unit,
Google.com, the Department of Public Safety databases, and
the food stamp division of the Department of Human Services
yielded no results. Thus, the Department effectuated
substituted service by publication on Z.Q. in the Rains
County Leader newspaper located in Emory, Texas on April 26,
conclusion of the trial on the merits, the trial court found,
by clear and convincing evidence, that Z.Q. had engaged in
one or more of the acts or omissions necessary to support
termination of his parental rights under subsections (C) and
(N) of Texas Family Code Section 161.001(b)(1). The trial
court also found that termination of the parent-child
relationship between Z.Q. and E.C.Q.L. was in the child's
best interest. Based on these findings, the trial court
ordered that the parent-child relationship between Z.Q. and
E.C.Q.L. be terminated. The order of termination was filed on
July 11, 2011.
January 25, 2016, Z.Q. filed a petition for bill of review,
contending that he was not personally served by citation and
was unaware that a court proceeding relating to his parental
rights was pending. In his supplemental petition, Z.Q.
further argued that service by publication denied him due
process of law. After a hearing, the trial court denied
Z.Q.'s petition for bill of review. The trial court filed
findings of fact and conclusions of law, finding that Z.Q.
was validly served by citation by publication and that his
bill of review was not timely filed under section 161.211(b)
of the Texas Family Code. This appeal followed.
third issue, Z.Q. argues that strict enforcement of Texas
Family Code section 161.211(b) violated his rights to due
process under both the Texas Constitution and the United
States Constitution because he was never properly served.
termination of parental rights embodies fundamental
constitutional rights. Vela v. Marywood, 17 S.W.3d
750, 759 (Tex. App.-Austin 2000), pet. denied per
curiam, 53 S.W.3d 684 (Tex. 2001); In re J.J.,
911 S.W.2d 437, 439 (Tex. App.-Texarkana 1995, writ denied).
Because a termination action "permanently sunders"
the bonds between a parent and child, we carefully scrutinize
termination proceedings, and strictly construe involuntary
termination statutes in the parent's favor. In re
E.R., 385 S.W.3d 552, 563 ...