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Termination of Parental Rights in Texas for Placing a Child in an Endangering Environment

mother and childIn a recent Texas child custody case, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services sued to terminate a mother’s parental rights to her daughter. After the jury trial, her parental rights were terminated.

The lower court found that the mother had placed or permitted her child to stay in surroundings that threatened the child’s wellbeing. It also found she’d put the child with people who were involved in activities that were endangering the child. It also found that she’d failed to obey a service plan that set forth actions she had to complete in order to have her child returned, and terminating her rights was in the child’s best interest under Texas Family Code section 161.001(b)(1)(D), (E), and (O).

The mother had two kids, a son and a daughter from different fathers. The son was around 11 years old at the time of trial, while the daughter was 16 months old. While the mother was pregnant with her daughter, the Department got a report that claimed there was domestic violence in her home.

Her son told the interviewer he didn’t feel safe because his parents fought often, and it was scary when they fought because the person he called dad would hit her. Her response was to get a gun or cell phone. He also said that the man would retaliate against them by leaving them stranded on the road without a way to get home.

The mother admitted that there were fights but said that they weren’t physical. She also claimed her son didn’t like the man. The mother refused to go someplace to be safe from abuse, so the Department got a temporary managing conservatorship of the son. After many attempts, it located him and put him with his aunt, the mother’s sister. The sister testified that when the boy got there, he had trouble sleeping and was scared. She indicated that if the boy thought the man was coming, he got nervous. However, the boy improved after therapy and counseling. The sister was named the permanent managing conservator of the boy, with the mother keeping a role in the boy’s life.

The mother’s husband sued for divorce and sought for them to be joint managing conservators of the baby who was yet to be born. The Department intervened two days after their daughter’s birth. The court appointed the Department to be the daughter’s temporary managing conservator.

Days later, a sheriff’s investigator witnessed the family drive away from the home in a tractor-trailer full of their belongings. He stopped them. The couple gave the daughter to the investigator, and the daughter was placed with the mother’s sister and her brother. The mother was ordered to complete a service plan. The Department petitioned to terminate the mother’s (and the father’s) parental rights.

The jury found that the parent-child relationship between the mother and father and the child should be terminated. The lower court terminated the relationship with a finding the mother had allowed the daughter to stay in endangering surroundings and failed to comply with the service plan.

The mother’s motion for a new trial was denied. She appealed.

The appellate court reasoned that the mother completed parenting classes and an analysis, but she didn’t do the individual counseling. She wasn’t going to leave her husband and wasn’t going to protect the child. Even when she said she moved away from the husband, she only gave the Department a PO Box, rather than a physical address. The mail sent there was returned. She didn’t provide proof she was employed. The appellate court explained that the termination of the relationship could only occur if it was in the child’s best interest.

The factors to be considered included what the child wanted, the child’s physical and emotional needs, the danger involved to the child, the programs available to help, the parental abilities, the parents’ plans for the child, the stability of the home, any behavior that showed the parent-child relationship wasn’t proper, and any excuses for the parents’ behavior. There was substantial evidence that she refused to leave a violent relationship with her husband. The mother was unwilling to protect the child from the dangers of domestic violence. For that reason, the court affirmed the lower court’s ruling.

If you are concerned about child custody and parental rights, contact the Texas attorneys at the McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200.

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Divorce and Taxes – What to do if your ex-spouse botched your joint tax return, May 31, 2016