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In re G.S.M

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

December 27, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF G.S.M., E.M., R.M., and G.M.M., Children

         From the 166th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2016-PA-00712 Honorable Martha Tanner, Judge Presiding

          Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice, Rebeca C. Martinez, Justice, Irene Rios, Justice.



         M.-M. appeals the trial court's order terminating her parental rights to her four children, G.S.M., E.M., R.M., and G.M.M. In a single issue on appeal, M.-M. asserts the evidence is insufficient to support the trial court's finding that termination of her parental rights was in the children's best interest.[1] We affirm the trial court's order.


         On April 6, 2016, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services ("the Department") filed its petition to terminate M.-M.'s parental rights. A bench trial was held on August 8, 2017. On the date of the trial, G.S.M. was approximately eleven years old, E.M. was approximately ten years old, R.M. was approximately eight years old, and G.M.M. was approximately six years old.

         At the start of the termination trial, M.-M.'s attorney asked for a continuance because M.-M. was not present and, according to her attorney, had allegedly suffered a mental breakdown. The State opposed the continuance, contending M.-M. had actually relapsed on methamphetamine. When the trial court asked M.-M.'s attorney if a guardian should be appointed for her, counsel replied that M.-M. had not gone to a hospital or been admitted to a psychiatric facility; she was at home with her husband and her mother; and she suffered from panic attacks, Stage 3 kidney cancer, and "some other ailments." The trial court denied the continuance, and trial commenced.

         The State first called Dietra Marquez, the current caseworker, who had only been on the case for two months. Marquez recommended M.-M.'s parental rights be terminated and the children's father and paternal grandmother be appointed joint managing conservators.

         According to Marquez, the children's father had done everything asked of him under his family service plan: he completed domestic violence, parenting, and anger management classes; and he completed his individual counseling. The children were currently living with their paternal grandmother, Elizabeth, who has been the children's primary caregiver for the entirety of the case. The children are bonded to their grandmother. Marquez said ten-year-old E.M. is autistic, and Elizabeth meets his special needs. The children's father recently moved into his mother's home because he was compliant with his service plan.

         Marquez testified M.-M. admitted having a methamphetamine drug problem, and she tested positive for that drug in May 2017. After the May 2017 drug relapse, Marquez referred M.-M. to out-patient drug treatment, which she did not successfully complete. After M.-M. discontinued her out-patient drug treatment, she did not return Marquez's phone calls. M.-M. attended only one individual counseling session. However, M.-M. completed a domestic violence class, a November 2016 out-patient drug treatment program, and a parenting class. Before M.-M.'s May 2017 drug relapse, she had engaged in counseling. M.-M. is currently married to Gabriel F. Gabriel F. had agreed to take a drug test, but never did. Marquez was also concerned about domestic violence allegations involving M.-M. and Gabriel F. M.-M. has stable housing with Gabriel F., but not stable employment.

         In addition to the domestic violence allegations against her current husband, Marquez said there was domestic violence between M.-M. and the children's father, and a separate incident of domestic violence with another man. Marquez said M.-M. addressed her drug issues, but then she relapsed; she addressed domestic violence issues, but she married the alleged perpetrator of the violence. Therefore, Marquez's concerns about drug use and domestic violence in the home continue.

         When asked why she recommended termination of M.-M.'s parental rights, Marquez said M.-M. had not satisfied all her family service plan requirements, the children no longer want to visit their mother due to her marrying Gabriel F., and they "are very upset." Marquez said the children told their mother they did not want her to marry Gabriel F. According to Marquez, G.S.M. wanted her mother's parental rights terminated and she wanted to remain with her father and paternal grandmother. G.S.M. was "very tearful" and believed things would go back to the way they were if her mother's rights were not terminated. Marquez said R.C.M. also expressed a desire to have his mother's parental rights terminated.

         Marquez stated M.-M.'s parental rights should be terminated because M.-M. was unwilling to place her children's needs above her own, and she married a man against whom the domestic violence allegations were made. Marquez said M.-M.'s visits with her children over the past month had become sporadic. M.-M. would tell Marquez she intended to visit, but then either not come or come and leave early. For the entirety of the case, the children repeatedly asked their mother to bring toys from her house that were special to them. M.-M. promised to bring the toys, but never did so. Marquez believed the inability to rely on their mother harmed the children.

         Elizabeth, the children's paternal grandmother, testified G.S.M. told her that G.S.M.'s role in the family was to take care of her three younger brothers, which included bathing and feeding them, putting them to bed, and making sure they did not fight. When the children were placed with Elizabeth, Elizabeth told G.S.M. she could be the "big sister" and that she [Elizabeth] would be the "mother" and take care of them. Elizabeth said that during a May visit in her home with the children, M.-M. denied being "high, " but admitted "she was coming down from it." Elizabeth stated that since her son, the children's ...

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