Court of Appeals of Texas, Seventh District, Amarillo
IN THE INTEREST OF H.L., H.L., AND C.L., CHILDREN
Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 1 Randall County,
Texas Trial Court No. 11711L1; Honorable Jack Graham,
QUINN, CJ., and CAMPBELL and PIRTLE, JJ.
Patrick A. Pirtle Justice
G.L., appeals the trial court's order terminating his
parental rights to H.L., H.L., and C.L. In five issues,
G.L. challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support
the trial court's findings that (1) termination was in
the children's best interest and that G.L. had (2)
knowingly placed or knowingly allowed the children to remain
in conditions or surroundings which endangered their physical
or emotional well-being, (3) engaged in conduct or knowingly
placed the children with persons who engaged in conduct which
endangered their physical or emotional well-being, (4)
constructively abandoned the children, and (5) failed to
comply with the provisions of a court order that specifically
established the actions necessary for G.L. to obtain the
return of his children. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann.
§ 161.001(b)(1)(D), (E), (N), (O) (West Supp. 2016).
Logic dictates that we initially address G.L.'s issues
two through five before we move on to address issue one. We
three children are H.L. (five years old), H.L. (four years
old), and C.L. (three years old). At birth, C.L. was
premature and he tested positive for narcotics. He was also
diagnosed with cerebral palsy. He has difficulty walking, is
unable to communicate, and receives four types of
therapy-speech, occupational, physical, and vision. The
children have two older maternal siblings.
mother, M.L., has been a long-time heroin and prescription
drug user. In March 2015, the Department of Family and
Protective Services received a report that she was neglecting
her children. When the children were removed, heroin was
found in a hallway closet and M.L. was arrested on two
warrants. Heroin and needles were also found in her purse.
The children indicated M.L. had been using drugs in front of
them. When the children were removed from their mother, G.L.
had left the children with M.L. and moved to Colorado.
April 15, 2015, the Department filed its original petition
seeking to terminate G.L.'s parental rights to H.L. and
H.L. In addition to seeking to terminate the parental rights
of the unknown father of C.L., the petition sought to
terminate G.L.'s parental rights to C.L., should
subsequent testing establish him as the child's father.
That same day, the Department sought and obtained an
emergency order appointing it the sole managing conservator
of all three children.
11, 2015, after an adversary hearing in which G.L. was not
notified and did not appear, the trial court issued a
temporary order establishing a service plan. The plan
required G.L. to undergo a psychological or psychiatric
evaluation, attend and cooperate in individual counseling
sessions, attend and participate in parenting classes, and
undergo drug/alcohol assessment and testing. The temporary
order also required G.L. to comply with each requirement set
out in the Department's original, or any amended, service
plan during the pendency of the proceedings.
January 2016, the Department sought and obtained an order for
substituted service of process by publication as to G.L. The
Department subsequently obtained personal service of process
as to G.L. on March 31, 2016. On August 29, 2016, the
Department filed its second amended petition seeking to
terminate G.L.'s parental rights to the children pursuant
to numerous provisions of section 161.001 including
subsections (b)(1)(D), (E), (N), and (O). See §
161.001(b)(1)(D), (E), (N), (O). In September 2016, paternity
testing established G.L. to be C.L.'s father, and in
January 2017, the trial court held its final hearing. At the
outset of the hearing, the trial court adjudicated G.L. as
the father of H.L., H.L., and C.L.
the hearing, G.L. testified telephonically that he and M.L.
lived together for four years before he moved to Colorado in
November 2013. He testified that he left because of
M.L.'s drug use. He indicated that he was given a copy of
the petition when the children were first taken into custody,
that he was aware he had been ordered to perform
court-ordered services including a psychological evaluation,
counseling sessions, a parenting class, drug/alcohol
assessment and testing, and that he was to provide evidence
of stable employment. With the exception of a parenting
class, he did not complete any of these requirements.
indicated that because he was living in Georgia, Texas would
not pay for any court-ordered services. He did not want to
move back to Texas and testified that he could not afford to
pay for the services in Georgia. He also indicated he did not
return to Texas because he did not have a driver's
license, although he has since obtained one. Furthermore, he
did not contact child protective services in Georgia to
inquire about services they might provide.
2010, he pled guilty to assault involving domestic violence
for striking M.L.'s head against a wall or grabbing her
arm with his hand. Adjudication was deferred and he was
sentenced to one year community supervision and assessed a
$600 fine. A month later, he was charged with possession of
marijuana and drug paraphernalia. In November of that year,
the State filed its motion to proceed to an adjudication of
guilt on the assault charge, and in February 2011, G.L. pled
true to the allegations contained in that motion. He was
found guilty of assault and was sentenced to thirty-three
days in jail and assessed a fine of $600. In 2014, he was
convicted in Colorado for criminal mischief.
December 2014, he spoke to the children by telephone, and
while he was unsure whether M.L. had custody of the children,
he felt they sounded normal. He testified he has not visited
the children in three years. He was not present at C.L.'s
birth and was unfamiliar with any of his medical issues.
Although he testified he was always concerned about the
children because he knew M.L. was going down a "bad
path, " he paid no support to anyone caring for the
children during his absence.
indicated that he currently lives at his mother's place
on thirty-two acres in Georgia. He was leaving his job with a
pool company after eight to nine months to work as a
technician at an automotive shop. He testified he was aware
he could go to the government for support for the children
and would apply for food stamps.
Moore, the Department's caseworker since the inception of
the case, testified that her first contact with G.L. was in
May 2016. She had attempted to locate him by telephone and
mail in Colorado, but to no avail. She testified G.L. had not
visited the children since April 2015 and had not paid any
support to anyone caring for the children. He was not present
at any of the proceedings until he appeared telephonically
for the final hearing. She further testified that although
his service plan indicates that, if he were to travel to
Texas, he could be given visitation with the children, he
never appeared in Texas nor asked for visitation.
also testified that, although G.L. has supplied proof he
completed a parenting class, he had not completed any other
task in the service plan. Although she attempted to determine
whether he had a suitable place for the children to live,
G.L. failed to provide any pay stubs, information on where he
lives, or the names of any roommates as requested. Moore
testified she advised him Texas would not pay for
out-of-state services and that, if he could not afford to pay
for them himself in Georgia, he should look into local
resources, including those that might be provided by the
Georgia department of child protective services. She further
testified that, in a May 2016 telephone call, G.L. told her
that the reason he left Amarillo was because M.L. was using
drugs and he described her as "crazy" and
"psycho." He also reported a history ...