Court of Appeals of Texas, Seventh District, Amarillo
IN THE INTEREST OF L.E., L.E., AND S.E., CHILDREN
Appeal from the 286th District Court Hockley County, Texas
Trial Court No. 15-08-24355, Honorable Pat Phelan, Presiding
QUINN, C.J., and CAMPBELL and PIRTLE, JJ.
T. Campbell Justice.
on a jury's verdict,  the trial court signed an order
terminating the parental rights of the father to his children,
L.E.-1, L.E.-2, and S.E.,  and appointing the Texas Department of
Family and Protective Services permanent managing conservator
of the children. At the time of the final hearing in February
2017, L.E.-1 was age twelve, L.E.-2, age five, and S.E.,
appeal, the father does not challenge the court's
findings that he engaged in conduct that endangered his
children, placed them in conditions that endangered them, and
failed to comply with a court order establishing the actions
necessary for him to obtain their return to his care.
See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b)(1)(D),
(E), (O). His issues challenge the legal and factual
sufficiency of the evidence supporting the finding that
termination of his parental rights is in the best interest of
the children. After review of the record, we conclude the
evidence sufficiently supports the best-interest finding, and
will affirm the trial court's order of termination.
mother did not appear for the final hearing but testified at
the adversary hearing. Background facts provided here are
drawn chiefly from final hearing testimony but include
testimony from the adversary hearing. At the final hearing,
the reporter's record of the adversary hearing was
admitted into evidence without objection or limitation and
excerpts of testimony were read to the jury.
father and the mother married in 2004. The mother is the
father's fourth wife; he is twenty-three years her
senior. Evidence shows their relationship has long been
combative. In 2004 in Illinois, the father was convicted for
felony assault of the mother and was imprisoned for six
months. He was also charged with illegal possession of a
firearm. At the time of the assault, the mother was pregnant
the father's sister. She is widowed and lives in Hockley
County. In 2013, the father contacted L.F. requesting
financial help. She sent him $1800 to restore the
family's utilities. According to L.F's testimony, a
couple of weeks later the father contacted her again,
reporting he could not find work and the family had nothing.
With L.F.'s help, the father and his family moved to
Hockley County, first living with L.F. and her then-ill
husband. The father later moved his family to a nearby house
in the same community, even though, L.F. said, that house
"was not in living condition."
2014, local police arrested the father for the offense of
terroristic threat, but he was not convicted. In March 2015,
the mother took the children to Kentucky where her mother
lived. There, the mother obtained a protective order against
the father. According to L.F., the mother had bruises on her
arm and stomach and the father had threatened her with a gun.
They returned to Texas and the father in May 2015.
Department became involved with the father and the mother in
July 2015 when it received a report of domestic violence.
L.E.-1 was observed with bruises and a burn on his chest. He
explained the bruises resulted from a fall and the burn was
caused by cooking. He told the Department he often watched
after his younger siblings while his parents argued.
August 10, 2015, L.F. testified, the father and the mother
voluntarily placed the children with her because the
family's water and gas had been disconnected. The father
testified he was working regularly at the time but could not
pay the family's bills.
Department filed a petition for protection, conservatorship,
and termination in late August 2015. At the September 1, 2015
adversary hearing, the court appointed the Department
temporary managing conservator of the children. The children
remained with L.F., the parents having limited supervised
visitation and telephone contact. The court signed an order
specifying actions necessary for return of the children. It
required the father, among other things, to maintain stable
housing and adequate employment, abstain from illegal drugs,
submit to drug screening as directed, abstain from activities
or criminal conduct which could result in incarceration, and
complete services including parenting classes, individual
therapy, a psychological evaluation, anger management
counseling, and a batterer's intervention program.
Hockley County deputy sheriff testified to a series of calls
to the father and mother's home, primarily in response to
domestic violence reports. He referred to five such instances
from 2014 to 2016. The mother testified at the adversary
hearing that the father once caused bruises on her arms by
grabbing her while trying to take a knife from her. The
deputy sheriff said the bruises appeared the result of
someone grabbing the mother's arms. The father testified
the mother hit him, causing bruises on her arms. The mother
also testified the father grabbed her "at least over
ten" times during a thirteen-year period.
deputy sheriff said the children were present during the
calls to their home and appeared upset. He described a
conversation with L.E.-1 after a late July 2015 call, in
which the child told him his parents had "a screaming
match" while the mother held S.E. He said L.E.-1 told
him "the two had a tug-of-war match over [S.E.], "
both struggling to take possession of the baby. The event
left L.E.-1 "scared."
November 2015, the father was in the county jail on charges
of interfering with a "nonemergency" 9-1-1 call,
resisting arrest and possession of a controlled substance in
a corrections facility. He remained in jail until January
2016 when he was released and the charges dismissed. During
the period of confinement, the father had no contact with the
children and did not participate in any services.
Department's motion, during February 2016, the trial
court issued a protective order in favor of L.S.-1, L.S.-2,
and S.E. The order contained the court's finding that the
father "has committed family violence."
was evidence that the father's dealings with the
Department were contentious, especially so early in the case.
At that time he resented the Department's involvement,
and viewed it as his "adversary." The Department
caseworker assigned to the family testified that when she and
her supervisor called the father to discuss services he
responded with profanity and threatened a lawsuit. In final
hearing testimony, the caseworker testified Department
caseworkers were not permitted to visit the father at his
home "due to his violent tendencies." She also
testified the Department did not have contact with the father
from September 2015 until February 2016.
father eventually began therapy sessions in September 2016
with a counselor. He completed parenting and anger management
classes but because of work-related absences did not
successfully complete the batterer's intervention
program. There was evidence his supervised visits with his
children went well.
the summer of 2016, L.F. developed stress-related health
issues, requiring the Department to place the children in
foster care elsewhere. She testified at the final hearing her
health issues were resolved and she saw no reason why the
children could not be returned to her care. L.F. said that