IN THE INTEREST OF J.H.C. AND I.K.C., CHILDREN
Appeal from the 326th District Court Taylor County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 49534-C
consists of: Bailey, C.J., Stretcher, J., and Wright, S.C.J.
M. BAILEY, CHIEF JUSTICE
appeals the trial court's final decree of divorce
dissolving his marriage to Mother. In four issues, Father
asserts that (1) there is insufficient evidence to support
the trial court's appointment of Mother as the sole
managing conservator of the parties' two children or the
trial court's order that Father have only limited contact
with the children and (2) the trial court erred by ordering
Father to surrender possession of his firearms for a period
of ninety days and to undergo an evaluation and participate
in counseling. We affirm.
and Mother met through a youth group at a church in Coleman.
Father was thirty-seven years old and the youth pastor at the
church. Mother was sixteen or seventeen years old and a
member of the youth group. According to Mother, she had been
"off doing all sorts of crazy bad things" and was
involved in an inappropriate relationship with a teacher at
her school. When Mother realized how "bad of a situation
it was," she turned to Father for advice on what she
should do to get out of the "trouble [she] was in."
did not advise Mother to report the relationship with her
teacher to the authorities. Rather, he told Mother that she
was in the situation because of her choices and that God
would not approve of the choices she had made. Father also
told Mother that she needed to "figure out" what
she wanted. Father then initiated a sexual relationship with
Mother. After Father said that "it was . . . either [the
teacher] or him," Mother ended her relationship with the
to Father, he and Mother were initially just friends.
However, the pastor of the church, as well as a deacon and
his wife, commented on how well Father and Mother "got
along" and encouraged them to date. Father and Mother
"considered it and then one thing led to another."
Father denied that he had had a sexual relationship with
Mother before they were married.
testified that, "towards the end of [her] 17-year
mark," church leaders discovered her relationship with
Father. The church leaders told Father that he could either
leave the church quietly or be fired. Father told Mother that
he was forced to leave one of his previous churches because
of his relationship with a teenager in his youth group.
Father was distressed over the situation at the church and
told Mother that, if he was fired from the church and she
left him, he would lose everything he had and would have no
reason to live. Father pressured Mother to commit to him and
made it "sound like he was going to get his gun."
Because Mother thought Father was going to kill himself, she
told him that she was "just going to marry [him] and
that is going to be the end of that."
however, denied that he had had an inappropriate relationship
with a teenager at his prior church, was fired from that
church, or was forced to leave the church in Coleman because
of his relationship with Mother. Rather, he left the church
in Coleman because he was "burned out" on ministry.
Father denied threatening to commit suicide if Mother would
not marry him.
and Mother married three days after Mother's eighteenth
birthday. Father then moved from Coleman to Abilene and
obtained his license to sell real estate. Mother remained in
Coleman until she graduated from high school and then joined
Father in Abilene. Father and Mother began attending a church
outside Abilene. Father was asked to become the youth pastor
at the church and, several years later, to be the pastor of
the parties' first child, was born after Father and
Mother had been married for five years. Approximately
seventeen months later, I.K.C. was born. When I.K.C. was five
months old, Father and Mother became the guardians of
Father's great-nephew, who was eight months old. For
three years, Mother was a stay-at-home mother to all three
great-nephew had a number of medical problems. Mother became
interested in the "medical aspect" of his care, and
the parties decided that Mother would attend nursing school.
While Mother attended school, Father was the primary
caregiver for the children. After Mother graduated from
nursing school, she began working full time as an emergency
parties' relationship soon began to deteriorate.
According to Mother, Father did not like her friends and
began going through the text messages on her phone. He also
began attacking her and her friends in conversations with
church members and in his sermons. Greg McEachren, a member
of the church, confirmed that Father began to speak
negatively about Mother to church parishioners and to
incorporate complaints about Mother into his sermons. Father,
however, denied that he "abused the pulpit" to
the record is not clear on the timing, at some point, Father
and Mother had a discussion about temporarily separating.
Father opposed the separation and stated that he thought that
it was best for Mother and the children if he just
"[blew his] head off." Father then
"methodically" kissed Mother, "like goodbye
forever," and left the house. Mother was afraid that
Father had a gun, was very worried about him, and attempted
to find him. Mother later decided that Father got
"joy" out of upsetting or "drawing
emotion" out of her. Father described the incident as a
"tit for tat" because, the previous night, Mother
had said that it would be better if she was dead and then she
had gone for a long drive. Mother, however, denied that she
threatened to kill herself; rather, she told Father that she
needed some time away and that she was going for a drive.
asked Father to participate in marriage counseling, and they
attended two counseling sessions with Margaret Shugart.
Father then suggested to Mother that they get "true
Christian counseling" from McEachren and his wife.
Mother went to a third counseling session with Shugart to
tell her of the change in plans. At the end of the session,
Shugart gave Mother literature describing the attributes of
nonviolent, healthy relationships and of violent, unhealthy
relationships. Mother became "scared" after
reviewing the information because, in her opinion, Father
matched "every one of the attributes of the unhealthy,
violent relationship" but matched "very few of the
testified that Father had indicated that he was the victim
and that none of the problems in the marriage were his fault.
The McEachrens, therefore, had a lot of animosity toward
Mother at the start of the counseling sessions. However,
after listening to Mother, the McEachrens realized that many
of the things that Father had said were not true. Further,
during the counseling sessions, Father "owned up to . .
. the verbal abuse that he would do, the manipulation, the
lying, [and] the victimization."
testified that he and Father had several more meetings at
which they discussed that Father was not doing what he needed
to do to save the marriage. In McEachren's opinion, it
got to the point that Father was just lying to him. Father,
however, testified that he had only one conversation with
McEachren after the first counseling session and that
McEachren became very angry during that conversation. Because
Father was afraid of the "violence" in
McEachren's voice, he hung up and never spoke to
and Mother subsequently made plans to spend an afternoon
together to work on their relationship. According to Mother,
McEachren called Father that morning and "got onto him
about the lies." Father then called Mother. Mother and
the McEachrens happened to be at the same coffee shop when
Father called, and Mother took the phone call outside. Father
was infuriated and "just really mad" at McEachren.
Because Father was so upset, Mother told him that she did not
think that they should meet that afternoon.
couple of minutes later, the McEachrens and Mother were
together in the coffee shop when Father called Mother again.
In contrast to his demeanor during the first phone call,
Father was calm and "methodical[ ]." Father again
asked Mother to meet him. When Mother hesitated, Father said:
"It's not like I am going to take you out in the
woods and shoot you." McEachren, who overheard the
statement, testified that this was the first time he saw any
indication that Father was violent.
Mother was frightened by the conversation, she agreed to meet
Father for lunch. Mother gave Father an "ultimatum"
and told him that he needed to get psychological help due to
his erratic behaviors that were "freaking [her]
out." Father responded that Mother needed to get
psychological help and to get back on her "meds,"
meaning the antidepressant that Mother was taking when she
was at home with three young children. Mother testified that
Father liked her to take the medication because she became a
"zombie" and did not give him any "push
back." That evening, Mother told Father that they needed
a weekend apart. Mother explained that the children would
stay with her mother and that she would stay with a friend.
had seen Father angry before when she made a decision that he
did not like. Mother also knew that Father owned a number of
pistols, rifles, and shotguns and had placed loaded guns
throughout the house after receiving a threat from his
nephew. When Father heard Mother's plan for the weekend,
he became very angry and shoved his hand under a pillow.
Mother was afraid that Father was getting a gun and was going
to shoot her. Although Father was only retrieving his phone,