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In re M. G.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Twelfth District, Tyler

May 26, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF M. G., A CHILD

         Appeal from the County Court at Law of Cherokee County, Texas (Tr.Ct.No. 2015-09-0581)

          Panel consisted of Worthen, C.J., Hoyle, J., and Neeley, J.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Greg Neeley Justice.

         C.G. and G.G. appeal the termination of their parental rights. In four issues and six issues, respectively, C.G. and G.G. challenge the trial court's termination order. We affirm.

         Background

         C.G. and G.G. are the parents of M.G. On September 8, 2015, the Department of Family and Protective Services (the Department) filed an original petition for protection of M.G., for conservatorship, and for termination of C.G.'s and G.G.'s parental rights. The Department was appointed temporary managing conservator of the child, and the parents were appointed temporary possessory conservators with limited rights and duties to the child.

         At the conclusion of the trial on the merits, the jury found, by clear and convincing evidence, that C.G.'s and G.G.'s parental rights should be terminated. The trial court found, by clear and convincing evidence, that C.G. had engaged in one or more of the acts or omissions necessary to support termination of her parental rights under subsections (D), (E), and (O) of Texas Family Code section 161.001(b)(1). The trial court also found that termination of the parent-child relationship between C.G. and M.G. was in the child's best interest. Based on these findings, the trial court ordered that the parent-child relationship between C.G. and M.G. be terminated.

         Further, the trial court found, by clear and convincing evidence, that G.G. had engaged in one or more of the acts or omissions necessary to support termination of his parental rights under subsections (D), (E), (O), and (Q) of Texas Family Code section 161.001(b)(1). The trial court also found that termination of the parent-child relationship between G.G. and M.G. was in the child's best interest. Based on these findings, the trial court ordered that the parent-child relationship between G.G. and M.G. be terminated. This appeal followed.

         Sufficiency of the Evidence

         In his first, second, third, and fourth issues, G.G. argues that the evidence is legally and factually insufficient to support the jury's finding that he engaged in one or more of the acts or omissions necessary to support termination of his parental rights. As part of her first issue, C.G. contends that the jury's verdict is not supported by clear and convincing evidence.

         Applicable Law

         A finding of only one ground for termination alleged under section 161.001(b)(1) is sufficient to support a judgment of termination. In re E.M.N., 221 S.W.3d 815, 821 (Tex. App.- Fort Worth 2007, no pet.). Thus, to be successful on appeal, G.G. and C.G. must establish that the trial court's findings on all the Department's pleaded grounds are unsupported by the evidence. See Fletcher v. Dep't of Family & Protective Servs., 277 S.W.3d 58, 64 (Tex. App.- Houston [1st Dist.] 2009, no pet.). When a parent does not challenge an independent ground that may support an order of termination, and the trial court found that termination was in the child's best interest, we cannot address any of the grounds for termination. See In re A.V., 113 S.W.3d 355, 361-62 (Tex. 2003); Fletcher, 277 S.W.3d at 64. Instead, we must overrule the challenges the parent has chosen to assert. See In re A.V., 113 S.W.3d at 361-62; Fletcher, 277 S.W.3d at 64.

         Father's Issues

         G.G. contends in his statement of issues that the evidence does not support termination of his parental rights under subsections (1)(D) (endangerment by conditions or surroundings), (1)(E) (endangerment by conduct), (1)(O) (failure to comply with a court-ordered service plan), or (1)(Q) (knowingly engaging in criminal conduct and inability to care for the child), of Texas Family Code section 161.001(b). However, in the body his brief, G.G. fails to challenge the jury's findings on the grounds for termination alleged under subsections (1)(D) (endangerment by conditions or surroundings) or (1)(Q) (knowingly engaging in criminal conduct and inability to care for the child). Because G.G. does not challenge every ground upon which the jury could have based its decision to terminate his parental rights, we do not address the unchallenged findings or the grounds he chose to challenge in his brief. See In re A.V., 113 S.W.3d at 361-62; Fletcher, 277 S.W.3d at 64.

         Mother's Issues

         C.G. argues that the jury's verdict is not supported by clear and convincing evidence because she substantially complied with the service plan under subsection (1)(O) (failure to comply with a court-ordered service plan). However, C.G. does not specifically challenge the jury's findings on the grounds for termination alleged under subsections (1)(D) (endangerment by conditions or surroundings) or (1)(E) (endangerment by conduct). Because C.G. does not challenge every ground upon which the jury could have based its decision to terminate her parental rights, we do not address the unchallenged findings or the grounds she chose to challenge in her brief. See In re A.V., 113 S.W.3d at 361-62; Fletcher, 277 S.W.3d at 64.

         Conclusion

         Accordingly, we overrule G.G.'s first, second, third, and fourth issues, and that part of C.G.'s first issue regarding unchallenged findings.

         Inadequately Briefed Issues

         In his sixth issue, G.G. contends that the child's attorney ad litem did not provide competent legal representation prior to, and during, the trial, because the attorney ad litem did not comply with the mandatory requirements. As part of her first issue, C.G. argues that because the Department intended to return the child to her, the Department "waived" any evidence regarding termination prior to making that decision. She also contends in her second, third, and fourth issues that the trial court erred by admitting records produced after the discovery deadline, by not allowing her counselor to testify at trial, and by allowing the alternate juror to be present during deliberations.

         Applicable Law

         Rule 38.1 of the Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure sets forth what must be included in an appellant's brief. See Tex. R. App. P. 38.1. Rule 38.1(i) requires that an appellant's brief "contain a clear and concise argument for the contentions made, with appropriate citations to authorities and to the record." Tex.R.App.P. 38.1(i). The appellate court has no duty to brief issues for an appellant. Huey v. Huey, 200 S.W.3d 851, 854 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2006, no pet.). The failure to provide appropriate record citations or a substantive analysis waives an appellate issue. WorldPeace v. Comm'n for Lawyer Discipline, 183 S.W.3d 451, 460 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.] 2005, pet. denied) (holding that failure to offer argument, citations to record, or citations to authority waives issue on appeal); Med. Specialist Group, P.A. v. Radiology Assocs., L.L.P., 171 S.W.3d 727, 732 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi 2005, pet. denied) (same); see also Fredonia State Bank v. Gen. Am. Life Ins. Co., 881 S.W.2d 279, 284-85 (Tex. 1994) (holding appellate court has discretion to deem issues waived due to inadequate briefing). References to sweeping statements of general law are rarely appropriate. Bolling v. Farmers Branch Ind. Sch. Dist., 315 S.W.3d 893, 896 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2010, no pet.). Appellate courts must construe briefing requirements reasonably and liberally, but a party asserting error on appeal still must put forth some specific argument and analysis showing that the record and the law support its contentions. San Saba Energy, L.P. v. Crawford, 171 S.W.3d 323, 338 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2005, no pet.).

         An appellate court has no duty-or even right-to perform an independent review of the record and applicable law to determine whether there was error. Valadez v. Avitia, 238 S.W.3d 843, 845 (Tex. App.-El Paso 2007, no pet.). Were we to do so, we would be abandoning our ...


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