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Puente v. Puente

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

July 30, 2019


          On Appeal from the 280th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 2018-34059

          Panel consists of Chief Justice Radack and Justices Goodman and Countiss.



         Guillermo Puente appeals from a family-violence protective order entered by the trial court. We affirm the trial court's protective order.


         On behalf of herself and her two daughters, Alicia Marie Puente filed an application seeking the entry of a family-violence protective order against her husband, Guillermo. In her application, she alleged that he had engaged in family violence by committing "acts that reasonably resulted in the genuine threat of substantial harm from physical injury to" one of his daughters.

         The trial court heard Alicia's application in June 2018. Alicia and Guillermo were the sole witnesses who testified at the hearing.

         Alicia testified that she and Guillermo were married in August 2009. They have two daughters, who are five and two years of age respectively. Alicia stated that Guillermo has been violent with her. His violent behavior began around August 2010 and has escalated.

         In particular, Alicia testified about a violent outburst in January 2018. During this outburst, Guillermo pushed, tugged, and held her. Over Guillermo's objection that they lacked a date-time stamp, the court admitted into evidence four photographs that Alicia took afterward that show bruises on her arms and legs. She said that the bruises on her arms resulted from him grabbing or pulling her and the ones on her knees resulted from her falling on a tile floor after he pushed her. She tried to telephone law enforcement for assistance during the assault, but Guillermo threw her phone away. She testified that she was too scared to call the police after the assault.

         Alicia testified that the most recent incident of domestic violence occurred in March 2018, when Guillermo forced their five-year-old daughter onto the patio and locked her out of the house because she had been reprimanded in pre-kindergarten and he thought that his daughter had lied about it. Parts of this incident were captured on four audio-video recordings that Alicia made with her phone.

         These audio-video recordings were played for the court. Alicia testified that she only captured parts of this incident because she had to record it surreptitiously. She feared that if Guillermo had known that she was recording him there would be repercussions for doing so. The recordings show Guillermo put his older daughter on the patio and shut and lock the door to the house. When Alicia told him not to push their daughter, Guillermo yelled, "Or what, Alicia, or what?" He then proceeded to scream at Alicia while walking toward her and pointing at her with his finger. He eventually commanded Alicia to sit in a chair. He yelled that unless the girls were disciplined they would turn out like Alicia's mother while clapping his hands for emphasis. He said that the girls had to be disciplined like this or else he would "have to beat" Alicia. When Alicia said that she did not agree with Guillermo's discipline of the girls, he responded, "Then call the cops."

          Alicia filed for divorce that same month. The divorce action is pending in the 245th District Court under Cause Number 2018-17611.

         Alicia obtained a temporary restraining order in the divorce action that barred Guillermo from taking possession of the girls. The same day that the order was served on Guillermo, he went to his younger daughter's daycare to pick her up, but it refused to release her to him. The daycare informed Alicia that Guillermo had been volatile and that he had left only after the daycare threatened to call the police. Guillermo found Alicia elsewhere later that day and began beating on her car, prompting Alicia to call the police out of fear.

         Alicia testified that she feared that Guillermo's violent behavior would continue to escalate. She further testified that she had left the marital home and was afraid to return to it because of Guillermo.

         Other than the March 2018 incident, Alicia agreed that there have not been any instances in which Guillermo was violent with the children. She conceded that the audio-video recordings that she made with her phone did not show Guillermo pushing their older daughter, and she also conceded that Guillermo had locked their older daughter out of the house to discipline her just twice.

         Guillermo testified that he has never committed an act of domestic violence. He denied causing the bruises that Alicia exhibited in the photographs. Guillermo also denied that he meant that he literally would have to beat Alicia if she did not discipline their daughters as he wished. He also denied that he was trying to intimidate Alicia during that argument.

         But Guillermo conceded that he had an anger problem. In the divorce action, he had been ordered to take an anger-management class. He introduced documentation into evidence showing that he had completed this class. Guillermo stated that he since has changed his parenting style to be more positive. He agreed that the way that he disciplined his older daughter in March 2018 was inappropriate.

         The trial court found that family violence had occurred and was likely to occur in the future, and that Guillermo had committed family violence. Based on these findings, the court ordered that Guillermo was prohibited from:

(1) committing family violence as defined by section 71.004 of the Family Code;
(2) acting in a manner intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault against ...

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