Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas
Appeal from the 304th Judicial District Court Dallas County,
Texas Trial Court Cause No. 16-00556-W-304
Justices Francis, Brown, and Schenck Opinion by Justice
the father of T.A., appeals the trial court's judgment
terminating his parental rights. Appellant brings two issues
contending the evidence is legally and factually insufficient
to support the termination and the termination order is
improperly vague. We affirm the trial court's judgment.
Dallas County Child Protective Services Unit of the Texas
Department of Family and Protective Services took possession
of T.A. after her mother, C.A., appeared intoxicated and
dropped her while in a doctor's office. CPS placed T.A.
in foster care and, on June 9, 2016, filed a petition for
conservatorship and termination of both appellant's and
C.A.'s parental rights. Nine months later, the parties
and their attorneys signed a Binding Mediated Settlement
Agreement. The agreement required a dispositive placement
hearing to address whether T.A. could be placed with either
P.G., Sr., appellant's father, or G.W., appellant's
mother. If the trial court decided that placement with P.G.,
Sr. or G.W. was not in T.A.'s best interest, appellant
and C.A. agreed to the termination of their parental rights
"based upon section 161.001(1)(O) of the Texas Family
Code and best interest [of the child]."
placement and termination hearing was conducted on May 23,
2017. At the hearing, the mediated settlement agreement was
admitted into evidence. The court heard testimony from
appellant, P.G., Sr. and G.W. concerning their ability to
care for T.A. Based on the evidence, the court concluded
neither placement was appropriate and continuing her in the
foster placement was in T.A.'s best interest. The trial
court signed a decree of termination on June 29, 2017
including findings from the hearing and incorporating the
mediated settlement agreement by reference.
respect to appellant, the court found termination of the
parent-child relationship was in T.A.'s best interest and
the evidence supported termination under section
161.001(b)(1)(O). Immediately after this finding, the trial
court's decree stated "IT IS, THEREFORE, ORDERED AND
DECREED by the Court that termination of the parent-child
relationship between [P.G.], the father, and the subject
child is in the best interest of the child." Appellant
timely brought this appeal.
first issue, appellant contends the evidence is insufficient
to support the trial court's decision to terminate his
parental rights under section 161.001(b)(1)(O). Section
161.001(b)(1)(O) allows the trial court to terminate a
parent-child relationship if it finds by clear and convincing
evidence that termination is in the best interest of the
child and the parent has,
failed to comply with the provisions of a court order that
specifically established the actions necessary for the parent
to obtain the return of the child who has been in the
permanent or temporary managing conservatorship of the
Department of Family and Protective Services for not less
than nine months as a result of the child's removal from
the parent … for the abuse or neglect of the child.
See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b)(1)(O)
(West Supp. 2017). Appellant argues the termination hearing
focused almost exclusively on the qualifications of P.G., Sr.
and G.W. as placement matches for T.A. and little, if any,
evidence was offered to support the predicate ground for
terminating his rights. The focus of the placement and
termination hearing was dictated, however, by the mediated
settlement agreement appellant signed in which he agreed his
parental rights would be terminated if neither P.G., Sr. nor
G.W. was found to be an appropriate placement for T.A.
Appellant specifically agreed that termination of his rights
would be based on section 161.001(b)(1)(O). Appellant does
not contend the agreement should be invalidated, set aside,
or denied evidentiary value. Because the trial court could
have relied on the settlement agreement when it ruled that
appellant's rights should be terminated under section
161.001(b)(1)(O), we overrule appellant's first issue.
See In re N.B., No. 05-15-00671-CV, 2015 WL 6437681,
at *4 (Tex. App.-Dallas Oct. 23, 2015, pet. denied).
second issue, appellant contends the termination decree is
not sufficiently specific to terminate his parental rights,
and therefore, the judgment is not final. Appellant argues
the termination order merely states that termination of his
parent-child relationship with T.A. is in T.A.'s best
interest, but it doesn't actually order the termination.
final, a judgment must determine the rights of the parties
and dispose of all issues involved so no future action will
be necessary to settle and determine the case. See In re
N.J.G., 980 S.W.2d 764, 767 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 1998,
no pet.). But, a judgment should be construed as a whole
toward the end of harmonizing and giving effect to all the
court has written. See Point Lookout West, Inc. v.
Whorton, 742 S.W.2d 277, 278 (Tex. 1987). The entire
content of the written instrument and the record must be
considered. Id. Courts should not give conclusive
effect to a judgment's use or omission of commonly
employed decretal words, but should instead determine what
the trial court adjudicated from a fair reading of all the
judgment's provisions. See Wilde v. Murchie, 949
S.W.2d 331, 333 (Tex. 1997).
the record and judgment in this case as a whole, it is clear
the trial court terminated appellant's parental rights.
Adding language concerning the child's best interest to
the decretal portion of the judgment does not change the
clear import of the order which is that the parent-child