Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas
Appeal from the 301st Judicial District Court Dallas County,
Texas Trial Court Cause No. DF-13-17972
Justices Francis, Myers, and Whitehill
suit affecting parent-child relationship (SAPCR), the trial
court conducted a bench trial and signed an order appointing
Mother sole managing conservator and Father possessory
conservator of their child, G.N.M. The order further required
Father's possession of G.N.M. to be supervised. The court
also signed a separate protective order that did not grant
Father all the relief he requested regarding a document that
an expert witness produced at trial.
appeals. A focal point in Father's appeal is whether the
trial court abused its discretion in its custody ruling where
Father is a registered sex offender with a history of other
youth-sex improprieties. Based on this record, we hold that
the trial court did not abuse its discretion and affirm.
filed this SAPCR in September 2013 when G.N.M. was four years
old. She alleged that Father was G.N.M.'s presumed father
and asked the court to (i) appoint her G.N.M.'s sole
managing conservator, (ii) appoint Father G.N.M.'s
possessory conservator, and (iii) deny Father any possession
of G.N.M. or, alternatively, grant Father only supervised
possession of G.N.M.
filed a counter-petition asking the court to appoint him and
Mother as joint managing conservators. He also sued Mother
trial court held a one-day bench trial, during which licensed
professional counselor Maria Molett produced to Mother a
document Father wrote detailing a sexual assault he had
committed. The document was admitted into evidence.
judge later signed an order that:
• found that Father was G.N.M.'s biological father;
• appointed Mother as G.N.M.'s sole managing
• appointed Father as G.N.M.'s parent possessory
• granted Father supervised visitation with G.N.M. for
two hours on the first, third, and fifth weekends of each
order granted Father no relief on his defamation claim.
judge also signed a protective order concerning all documents
Molett had produced in the litigation. The order provided
that the documents (i) "may be used or shown only to the
parties to this case, their attorneys and judges and court
personnel" and (ii) "shall [not] be released,
disseminated, shown to, or copied, nor contents revealed to,
any other person, firm or corporation."
filed a motion for partial new trial and for rehearing
regarding the protective order. Father asked the court to
order Mother to (i) return all copies of the Molett documents
to Father and (ii) delete any electronic copies. The trial
court held a hearing and denied the motion.
presents three issues:
1. The trial court abused its discretion by ordering
Father's possession of G.N.M. to be supervised because
there was insufficient evidence that Father was a danger to
2. The trial court abused its discretion in its
conservatorship appointments because Mother did not rebut the
presumption that the parents should be appointed joint
3. The trial court erred by allowing Mother to retain
possession of certain federally protected information beyond
the end of this SAPCR.
Issue One: Did the trial court abuse its discretion by
requiring Father's possession of G.N.M. to be
Standard of Review and Applicable Law
review a trial court's order regarding child possession
and visitation for abuse of discretion. In re
L.C.L., 396 S.W.3d 712, 716 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2013, no
pet.). A trial court abuses its discretion if it acts
arbitrarily and unreasonably without reference to any guiding
principles. Id. Under this standard, legal and
factual sufficiency of the evidence are not independent
grounds of error but are factors relevant to our abuse of
discretion assessment. Id. If some substantive and
probative evidence supports the trial court's judgment,
we will not substitute our judgment for the trial
court's. Id. The trial court is in the best
position to observe the witnesses and their demeanor, and we
give the court great latitude in determining a child's
best interest. In re N.F.M., No. 05-15-01232-CV,
2016 WL 6835721, at *3 (Tex. App.-Dallas Nov. 3, 2016, no
pet.) (mem. op.).
best interest of the child shall always be the primary
consideration of the court in determining . . . possession of
and access to the child." Tex. Fam. Code § 153.002.
In determining a parent possessory conservator's terms
and conditions for possession of a child, the court shall be
guided by the guidelines in Family Code Chapter 153,
Subchapter E. Id. § 153.192(b). Those
guidelines direct the trial court to consider "(1) the
age, developmental status, circumstances, needs, and best
interest of the child; (2) the circumstances of the managing
conservator and of the parent named as a possessory
conservator; and (3) any other relevant factor."
Id. § 153.256. An order ...