Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re D.D.M.

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

May 2, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF D.D.M., J.C.M., AND J.D.M., JR., CHILDREN

          On Appeal from the 300th District Court Brazoria County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 89321-F

          Panel consists of Justices Lloyd, Kelly, and Hightower.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RICHARD HIGHTOWER, JUSTICE

         Appellant Jamile Matthews appeals after having his parental rights to his two children terminated. He contends that the evidence was legally and factually insufficient to support the termination and the trial court abused its discretion by appointing the Department of Family and Protective Services as permanent managing conservator of the children. Because the undisputed evidence of Matthews's conduct both before and after losing custody of his children prevents a reasonable factfinder from forming a firm belief or conviction that Matthews engaged in conduct that endangered the physical and emotional well-being of his children under Family Code section 161.001(b)(1)(E), we reverse the trial court's termination order. We affirm the trial court's conservatorship order, however, because of the less stringent evidentiary and appellate-review standard and because the trial court reasonably concluded that appointing Matthews as managing conservator would not be in the children's best interest.

         Background

         Appellant Jamile Matthews is the biological father of two children, five-year-old D.D.M. and six-year-old J.D.M., the subjects of this suit. Matthews ended his relationship with the children's biological mother after he found out that she was having multiple affairs. One of the affairs resulted in the mother having another child, six-year old J.C.M. Although Matthews was not J.C.M.'s biological father, she called Matthews "daddy" and otherwise treated him as her father. After the couple split up, Matthews lived with his sister at her apartment, and the children stayed at the mother's apartment. The mother had another child, M.N., with yet another man after her relationship with Matthews ended.

         Sometime after the couple split up, Matthews learned through Facebook messages that some men at the mother's apartment were "whooping on [his] kids." Matthews called the police and asked them to conduct a welfare check on the children. A man living with the mother later spoke with Matthews over the phone and asked why he called "the police to come out and check on [the] kids." The record does not indicate how or if the police actually conducted the welfare check, but it is clear that the children were not taken from the mother. Matthews was still concerned that men at the mother's apartment were abusing his children, so he attempted to get the children from the mother's apartment himself.

         After a friend drove him to the mother's apartment, Matthews approached and knocked on the mother's door. He heard through the door a man on the inside say, "This is your baby daddy at the door." Then he heard a gun cock. Matthews quickly moved away from the door and returned to his friend's car, but he did not leave; he was still worried about the safety of his children. He looked back at the door to the mother's apartment and saw that it had been opened. Matthews turned to his friend and said, "Look here, man. I am here to try to get one of my kids." He then went back up to the door and saw his son D.D.M. Matthews grabbed D.D.M., returned to the car, and left. Matthews later reflected that, had the opportunity presented itself without the risk of being shot, he would have taken all of the children.

         In early winter 2016, after Matthews got D.D.M. from the mother's house, he called the police for a second time and asked that they check again on the children at the mother's apartment. The police told him that there was nothing they could do because DFPS had already taken the children from the home. This was news to Matthews. DFPS then sent a caseworker to the sister's apartment where Matthews was staying with D.D.M. The caseworker explained to him that J.C.M. and J.D.M. were taken from the mother on November 22, 2016, after DFPS discovered that the mother's boyfriend had drowned two-month-old M.N. in a toilet because he would not stop crying.[1] Within a week, DFPS filed an original suit seeking custody of J.C.M. and J.D.M.

         The following month, Matthews's sister kicked him and D.D.M. out of her apartment. While on a bus with D.D.M., Matthews called DFPS and informed it that he had been kicked out of sister's house. He explained that he and D.D.M. were going to a relative's house to see if they could stay there or otherwise receive help. Later that same day, Matthews informed DFPS that his sister was allowing him and D.D.M. to stay at her house but that she wanted him out within thirty days. Three days later, Matthews called DFPS again. He informed it that he would not be able to find a place to stay before his sister would kick him out. Matthews stated that he only had $80 of food stamps and four diapers and that he would be not capable of properly caring for D.D.M. after being kicked out. As he put it, "I didn't want [D.D.M.] to sleep on the fence like I had to." DFPS asked Matthews if he understood that he was asking it to take his child from him. He stated that he understood, and DFPS took D.D.M. into its care.

         On January 23, 2017, DFPS filed an original petition seeking custody of D.D.M. This case was consolidated with DFPS's earlier petition that sought custody of J.C.M. and J.D.M.[2] DFPS provided Matthews with a family-services plan that laid out requirements he had to satisfy to ensure that his parental rights were not terminated. The requirements included that he "participate in random drug testing"; "complete drug and alcohol assessments" if he tested positive on a drug test; "complete a psychological evaluation"; "participate in individual therapy"; and "maintain a safe and stable home environment as well as maintain employment."

         By the time trial began in September 2018, Matthews had taken four drug tests. The first was a leg-hair test on October 2, 2017. He tested positive for methamphetamine at a level indicating "very heavy use"; he also tested positive for marijuana. The second was a urine test a day later. He again tested positive for methamphetamine. The third was another leg-hair test, conducted on January 10, 2018. He tested positive for methamphetamine, marijuana, and cocaine. The fourth was also a leg-hair test. It was conducted on April 4, 2018, and returned positive for methamphetamine. Matthews completed his final drug test, another leg-hair test, on September 21, 2018, eight days after trial began. The final test returned positive for methamphetamine and ecstasy.

         Trial testimony revealed that Matthews completed his psychological evaluation and the drug and alcohol assessment, he was participating in individual therapy, he had been living in a safe home with his new girlfriend for four months, he was working forty hours a week at McDonald's earning $8.45 an hour, and he never missed a visit with his children. Matthews testified that he and his girlfriend were capable of paying their rent, utilities, and other expenses and would have enough money left over to cover food, education, medical, and related expenses for D.D.M. and J.D.M. A DFPS caseworker testified that the children loved their father and enjoyed their visits with him.

         The same caseworker explained that J.D.M. was diagnosed with "mood disorder and conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and ADHD." She explained that, in DFPS care, J.D.M. is enrolled in weekly therapy to address these disorders. The caseworker testified that D.D.M. has "impulse control and conduct disorder and ADHD" and that he is currently in "play therapy." The caseworker averred that it was DFPS's position Matthews's ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.