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Dodson v. Smith

Court of Appeals of Texas, Eleventh District

September 15, 2017


         On Appeal from the 326th District Court Taylor County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 28, 103-C

          Panel consists of: Wright, C.J., Willson, J., and Bailey, J.



         Ryan Chadwick Dodson appeals an order that required him to provide child support in the amount of $1, 599.57 per month for his disabled, adult son, J.D.C.D. In two issues on appeal, Dodson contends that the trial court abused its discretion when it ordered him to pay child support for J.D.C.D. because (1) Dodson's obligation to support J.D.C.D. terminated when J.D.C.D. turned eighteen and graduated from high school and (2) the evidence was insufficient to establish that J.D.C.D. was disabled prior to his eighteenth birthday or that the cause of his disability was known to exist before his eighteenth birthday. We affirm.

         I. Evidence at Trial

         J.D.C.D. was born in July 1995. On March 6, 1997, Smith and Dodson divorced, and the trial court awarded Smith primary custody of J.D.C.D. In July 2010, J.D.C.D. went to live with Dodson. At trial, the evidence showed that J.D.C.D. suffered a stroke in March 2011. While he was hospitalized, doctors also diagnosed him as having Moyamoya disease, which blocks arteries from getting blood to parts of the brain, as well as a genetic blood disorder called Factor V Leiden mutation. The evidence showed that, as a result of these illnesses, J.D.C.D. suffered a number of disabilities that limited his ability to function normally and care for himself. Sometime in 2012, J.D.C.D. returned to live with Smith. On January 27, 2016, when J.D.C.D. was twenty years old, Smith filed a second amended petition to modify the parent-child relationship, in which Smith asked the trial court to order Dodson to provide support for J.D.C.D. indefinitely.

         A. J.D.C.D.'s Physical Health

         On March 10, 2011, when he was fifteen years old, J.D.C.D. was admitted to Cook Children's Hospital (Cook) in Fort Worth after suffering a stroke. While hospitalized at Cook, J.D.C.D. suffered another stroke and was transferred to Hermann Hospital in Houston in order to undergo a stenting and bypass procedure. After the procedure in Houston, J.D.C.D. returned to Cook for further rehabilitation. Doctors also discovered evidence of a previously undiagnosed stroke that J.D.C.D. had suffered before his 2011 strokes. Following J.D.C.D.'s hospitalization, doctors again diagnosed him with Moyamoya disease, as well as the Factor V Leiden mutation.

         Dodson testified that, following J.D.C.D.'s surgery, J.D.C.D. lost half of his peripheral vision in both eyes and needed "substantial care" when he returned home. Dodson testified that J.D.C.D. needed help bathing, could not cook his own meals, and could not drive. He also said that J.D.C.D. at first needed assistance using the bathroom.

         B. J.D.C.D.'s Neuropsychological and Educational Evaluations

         The evidence showed that J.D.C.D. suffered from a number of behavioral and cognitive health problems after his 2011 strokes. Smith introduced as evidence three neuropsychological evaluations that doctors performed on J.D.C.D. In the first evaluation, which a doctor performed in May 2011 when J.D.C.D. was fifteen years old, the doctor noted that J.D.C.D., though cooperative, appeared anxious and had slow responses to nonverbal tasks. The doctor stated that J.D.C.D.'s "slowed auditory processing will result in difficulty processing information presented in a lecture format in class" and recommended that J.D.C.D. be placed in special education. Finally, the doctor stated that J.D.C.D. would struggle with copying and subjects with a visual spatial component, including math and science classes.

         In the second evaluation, which a doctor performed on May 21, 2012, when J.D.C.D. was sixteen years old, the doctor said that J.D.C.D. "continues to exhibit physical symptoms related to his strokes, including decreased sensation and some cognitive neglect along the left side of his body." The doctor also noted that J.D.C.D. exhibited inattention, distractibility, impulsivity, disinhibition, significant disorganization, sleep disturbance, poor frustration tolerance, significant irritability and argumentativeness, and significant social difficulties. The doctor also noted J.D.C.D.'s parents' concerns about his inability to react effectively during emergency situations, poor decision-making, and lack of insight with regard to his own deficits. Because many of the test results were consistent with those in the previous evaluation, the doctor concluded that J.D.C.D.'s "cognitive profile is most significant for executive dysfunction" and that "it is unlikely that he will acquire adequate adaptive functioning skills by the time he turns 18 years old."

         In the third evaluation, which a doctor performed when J.D.C.D. was eighteen years old, the doctor noted that J.D.C.D.'s math skills were "severely impaired and below a kindergarten level." The doctor stated that "it is unlikely that [J.D.C.D.] will be able to maintain steady employment in a competitive work environment." The doctor also concluded that "it is unlikely that [J.D.C.D.] will be able to live completely independently, and he will likely require some degree of support throughout his life in order to maintain his physical safety and financial well-being."

         Smith also introduced as evidence J.D.C.D.'s school evaluation from 2013. In the evaluation, school officials determined that J.D.C.D. met the federal eligibility requirements for special education services. Officials determined that J.D.C.D. had an ...

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