Appeal from the 314th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Case No. 2013-02795J
consists of Justices Higley, Bland, and Brown.
father, appeals the termination of his parental rights to
G.K.G.A., challenging the legal and factual sufficiency of
the evidence supporting the trial court's predicate
finding that he constructively abandoned the child. We
child was born in El Paso in December 2006. Sometime before
the fall of 2012, her family relocated to Harris County. The
child came into the Department's custody in May 2013,
after it had received reports of three separate incidents of
violence in her family.
first occurred in October 2012. While driving, her father
punched her mother in the face several times and threatened
to beat her again at home. When the father stopped the car in
the apartment complex's parking lot, the mother tried to
run away from the father, but he tackled her to the ground.
As a result of this altercation, the father was criminally
charged with assault against a family member. Pursuant to a
plea agreement, the father pleaded guilty to the charge and
received two years of deferred adjudication community
other two incidents occurred in January and May 2013,
respectively, and involved the child's half-brother, who
was 12 years old at that time. In the January incident, the
half-brother complained about pain during the school day and
was taken to the nurse's office. The nurse examined the
half-brother and found bruising on his face and back. He
disclosed to school officials that his stepfather, who is the
father in this appeal, had "lashed out" at him for
having taken an electronic reading device to school.
May incident, the half-brother was found carrying a large
pocket knife to school. When school officials discovered that
he was carrying a knife, the half-brother told them that his
mother told him to take the knife to school and "hide
it." The school officials contacted the mother and told
her about the situation. She was overheard cursing at the
half-brother, telling him to "shut the hell up, "
and not to say another word. When the school officials asked
the mother to explain, she responded that half-brother was
"a liar." In the mother's absence, the school
officials further discussed the incident with the
half-brother. He expressed that his "home life was
bad" and said he did not care what happened to him
anymore. He also informed them that a similar incident
occurred when the family was living in El Paso and he was
almost taken from his family.
a few days of the May incident, the Department petitioned for
protection for the child in this case and her two
half-siblings. The trial court ordered the Department to
serve as managing conservator for the children. The three
children were placed in the care of the half-siblings'
paternal aunt and her husband in El Paso. The trial court
prohibited the father from having contact with the children.
The no-contact order remained in place from May 2013 until
father was not served and did not appear at the initial
hearing. The Department eventually located him in the county
jail, where he was detained on a charge of interfering with a
public servant. That charge was later dismissed. The
Department served the father with the petition on June 18th.
August 2014, the mother's parental rights had been
terminated. Because the father's detention had prevented
him from undertaking the services ordered by the trial court,
the Department and the father entered into a mediated
settlement agreement that gave him additional time to work on
them. The father signed the MSA on August 13.
provided that the father would have visitation and access to
the child "as arranged by DFPS and previously
ordered." This language references the trial court's
July 2014 temporary order that lifted the no-contact order.
The case supervisor testified that the Department had made
visitation arrangements at the mediation that the father
would contact the Department whenever he was going to El Paso
and they would "set it up . . . with the [case]worker
evidence is disputed concerning the father's involvement
with the child from July 2014 until the case was tried in
October 2016. The caseworker supervisor testified that. to
her knowledge, the father made no effort to arrange any
visits with the child after the no-contact order was lifted.
The aunt likewise testified that the father never contacted
her for assistance in setting up a ...