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.

M. H. v. Texas Department of Family and Protective Services

Court of Appeals of Texas, Third District, Austin

January 8, 2020

M. H., Appellant
v.
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Appellee

          FROM THE 274TH DISTRICT COURT OF HAYS COUNTY NO. 18-2091, THE HONORABLE MELISSA MCCLENAHAN, JUDGE PRESIDING

          Before Chief Justice Rose, Justices Triana and Smith

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Gisela D. Triana, Justice

         This is an appeal from an order, following a bench trial, terminating the parental rights of M.H. (the father) and M.A.M. (the mother) to M.A.H. (the child). The father has appealed the order of termination. In a single issue on appeal, the father challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the order of termination on two grounds: (1) he asserts that the evidence is insufficient to prove that he is a parent of the child; and (2) he claims that clerical errors in the order of termination demonstrate that the evidence is insufficient to prove that he committed two of the four predicate grounds for termination specified in the order. We will modify the district court's order of termination to correct the clerical errors and affirm the order as modified.

         BACKGROUND

         The district court heard evidence that on August 15, 2018, San Marcos Police Department Officers Lance Cyrus and Gavin Gonzales responded to a report of a domestic disturbance at an apartment complex. Upon arrival, the officers observed the father and the mother walking out of their apartment and arguing with each other. According to Officer Gonzales, the father and the mother "were still kind of amped up, still verbally kind [of] shouting at each other," and had to be separated. Officer Cyrus described the disturbance as "an argument between maybe husband and wife, girlfriend [and] boyfriend." After the father and mother were separated, Cyrus interviewed the mother, who was holding a baby at the time. Cyrus became concerned for the baby's safety after the mother admitted that she had taken methamphetamines that night. Cyrus believed that the mother was under the influence of narcotics.

         Gonzales interviewed the father, who explained that the argument began when the mother arrived home from a friend's house and accused the father of cheating on her. The father claimed that the mother had assaulted him during the argument by pushing and shoving him and "poking" him with a toothbrush in "the neck or torso area." The father acknowledged during the interview that he was on probation for assault family violence.[1]

         The mother was arrested for assault. Before going to jail, the mother was transported to a hospital for medical evaluation. The medical records from the hospital visit, which were admitted into evidence, included a summary of conversations that the mother had with a social worker while the mother was at the hospital. The mother told the social worker that she and the father were using methamphetamines that night but that the mother did not use methamphetamines "on a regular basis." She claimed that she had used them that night to "please her husband." The mother informed the social worker that the father was physically and sexually abusive toward her and that he had hit and choked her the previous night. The medical records also reflect that the mother told the social worker "that she has a 2 y.o. daughter with her husband, [M.H.], and that is why she has left him and returned 2-3 times. He uses the child to get her to come back." It is undisputed that the mother's two-year-old daughter is the same child who is the subject of this suit.

         Following the August 15, 2018, incident, the Department of Family and Protective Services (the Department) initiated this suit for protection of the child.[2] Tasha Patschke, a Department supervisor, testified that she interviewed the mother at the hospital, and the mother told her that the father had used cocaine and marijuana prior to the child's birth and had introduced the mother to methamphetamines. The mother also told Patschke that on the night of the incident, she and the father had used methamphetamines together while the child was present in the room with them.

         While the case was ongoing, there was another incident involving the father and the mother. On February 24, 2019, San Marcos Police Department Officers Dilan Anderson and Casey Tennant responded to a 911 call "of a possible domestic-violence situation." Officer Anderson testified that when they arrived, the father was standing outside the apartment with his personal belongings. The father claimed that he and the mother had a "verbal altercation" and that "he was just trying to get his stuff and get out." The mother, who was crying and appeared "very distraught," told a different story. According to Anderson, "She told me that they left a bar in San Marcos and went to get something to eat. And while they were in the car, there was an altercation between her and [the father]" that became physical. Anderson observed injuries on the mother that were consistent with her story, specifically "numerous cuts and bruises on her arms." Additionally, two individuals who were with the father and the mother at the time of the incident corroborated the mother's version of events. The father was arrested that night for assault family violence and remained incarcerated for that offense at the time of trial.

         Payton Tatsch, a Department caseworker, testified that the Department was concerned with the mother's "cycle of domestic violence" and the father's "substance use, as well as his domestic violence." Tatsch added, "There's been several incidents in the past where he's been arrested for assault charges. And that is a concern for someone raising a small child."

         At the conclusion of trial, the district court found by clear and convincing evidence that the father and the mother had: (1) knowingly placed or knowingly allowed the child to remain in conditions or surroundings which endangered the physical or emotional well-being of the child; (2) engaged in conduct or knowingly placed the child with persons who engaged in conduct which endangered the physical or emotional well-being of the child; (3) constructively abandoned the child who had been in the permanent or temporary managing conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services for not less than six months; and (4) 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. See Tex. Fam. Code. § 161.001(b)(1)(D), (E), (N), (O). The district court also found that termination of the parent-child relationship between the parents and the child was in the best interest of the child. See id. § 161.001(b)(2). Based on its findings, the district court terminated the parental rights of the father and the mother. This appeal by the father followed.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The district court may order termination of the parent-child relationship "if clear and convincing evidence supports that a parent engaged in one or more of the [statutorily] enumerated grounds for termination and that termination is in the best interest of the child." In re N.G., 577 S.W.3d 230, 232 (Tex. 2019) (per curiam) (citing Tex. Fam. Code § 161.001(b)). "Proceedings to terminate the parent-child relationship implicate rights of constitutional magnitude that qualify for heightened judicial protection." In re A.C., 560 S.W.3d 624, 626 (Tex. 2018). "Because termination of parental rights 'is complete, final, irrevocable and divests for all time' the natural and legal rights between parent and child, a court cannot involuntarily sever that relationship absent evidence sufficient to 'produce in the mind of the trier of ...


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.