In Interest of XCB (Tex.App.- Houston [1st Dist.] Jun. 18, 2009)(Op. By Anderson)(termination
of parental rights, nonbiological father figure, not entitled to parental presumption after nonpaternity
determination, common law marriage to mother, best interest factors, failure to preserve constitutional
arguments for appeal)
AFFIRMED: Opinion by Justice Anderson
Before Justices Anderson, Guzman and Boyce
14-08-00851-CV In the Interest of X.C.B., AKA X.C, I.C.B., AKA I.C., S. B.C., and J.W.C AKA J. W. W.
Appeal from 315th District Court of Harris County
Trial Court Cause No. 2007-03224J
Affirmed and Memorandum Opinion filed June 18, 2009.
M E M O R A N D U M O P I N I O N
After a bench trial, the trial court terminated the parental rights of the surviving birth parents of X.C.B., I.
C.B., S.B.C., and J.W.C. The court further denied the requested relief of the intervenor, Chris Brown,
and determined that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (“DFPS") would be the
children's sole managing conservator. In four issues, Brown argues the trial court erred in (1) removing
the children from his home, ordering genetic testing, and finding that he was not their father, (2)
appointing DFPS as sole managing conservator, and (3) incorporating all prior interlocutory orders into
the final order.
I. Factual and Procedural Background
X.C.B. was born to Sherrie Chatman in December 2002; I.C.B. was born in August 2004. When S.B.C.
was born in February 2006, Chatman and the baby tested positive for cocaine. At that time, the children
remained with their mother who was sent to drug rehabilitation. Monnette Young, a caseworker for
DFPS, testified that it is the agency's policy to permit mothers whose children test positive for the first
time to take their babies with them during rehabilitation to facilitate bonding between mother and child.
On March 24, 2007, Chatman gave birth to J.W.C. who also tested positive for cocaine. At that time all
four children were placed under the care of DFPS. J.W.C. was immediately placed in foster care, but
the three older children were permitted to live with Brown who had maintained an “on-again, off-again"
relationship with Chatman.
On April 5, 2007, DFPS filed an original petition for protection of the children, for conservatorship, and
for termination of the parents' rights. In the petition, DFPS alleged that Brown considered himself to be
the father of the three oldest children, but requested genetic testing to determine paternity. The petition
further sought to terminate the rights of Floyd Walker, alleged to be the father of J.W.C., and Sherrie
Chatman, the children's mother. On April 25, 2007, the trial court ordered Brown to submit to genetic
testing to determine if he was the father of the three oldest children. On the same day, the court
appointed DFPS as the temporary managing conservator of the children. The children were permitted,
however, to live with Brown in his home subject to certain restrictions including that he permit the
children to visit their mother only when supervised by DFPS.
On September 12, 2007, the three oldest children were removed from Brown's home by DFPS because
the children witnessed their aunt stab their mother. Brown testified that he took the children to visit their
mother's sister. According to Brown, while at their aunt's home, the children's mother arrived and
immediately began arguing with her sister. The aunt stabbed the children's mother during the
argument. Brown testified that the children did not see their mother being stabbed and that he removed
the children from the house as soon as the mother arrived. However, X.C.B. told a caseworker that he
saw his mother and aunt arguing and that “there was a lot of blood." The children's great, great
grandmother, Francis Chatman, testified that on the night of the stabbing Brown took the children along
with their mother to the aunt's home. This was in direct violation of the court's order that the children
only see their mother under the supervision of DFPS.
On April 3, 2008, Chatman was found deceased. The record is unclear as to the cause of her death.
On June 16, 2008, Brown was dismissed from the conservatorship suit because genetic testing excluded
him as the father of any of the children. On July 9, 2008, Brown filed a petition in intervention seeking to
be appointed sole managing conservator of the three oldest children. After a bench trial, the trial court
terminated the rights of Floyd Walker and the unknown father of the three oldest children. The court
further found that Brown could not provide a safe, stable, and nonviolent environment for the children,
denied the relief he sought in intervention, and appointed DFPS the sole managing conservator of the
II. Determination of Paternity
In his first issue, Brown argues that the trial court erred in permitting DFPS to remove the children from
his home when J.W.C. tested positive for cocaine. Brown further argues that the trial court lacked
subject-matter jurisdiction because DFPS lacked standing to challenge his paternity.
At the time J.W.C. tested positive for cocaine, DFPS took temporary conservatorship of the children.
The order issued by the court was interlocutory and has now been superseded by the court's final
judgment. An order addressing temporary conservatorship of children is interlocutory, and this court
lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over an appeal from such an order. In the Interest of N.J.G., 980 S.W.
2d 764, 767 (Tex. App.- San Antonio 1998, no pet.). Thus, to the extent Brown attempts to challenge
the trial court's interlocutory order, we have no jurisdiction and overrule his issue.
Further, Brown challenges the trial court's order of genetic testing. A proceeding to adjudicate
parentage is governed by the Uniform Parentage Act. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §§ 160.001-160.707
(Vernon 2008). Section 160.601 specifically authorizes the DFPS to bring suit to adjudicate the
parentage of a child. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 160.601. Once genetic testing is conducted and the
results released for use in a proceeding to determine parentage, any resulting harm cannot be undone.
In re Attorney Gen. of Tex., 272 S.W.3d 773, 777 (Tex. App.- Dallas 2008, orig. proc.) (holding there is
no adequate remedy at law for the harm respecting erroneously ordered genetic testing, and mandamus
relief is appropriate). Therefore, once Brown submitted to genetic testing, his complaint that the order
for testing was erroneous became moot. Brown's first issue is overruled.
III. Managing Conservatorship
In his second issue, Brown contends that the trial court erred in appointing DFPS the sole managing
conservator of the children contrary to the parental presumption.
A. Standard of Review
Actions to determine conservatorship of children are governed by the best interests of the children. See
Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 153.002. The burden of proof in conservatorship cases, as opposed to
termination cases, is a preponderance of the evidence. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 105.005; In re J.A.
J., 243 S.W.3d 611, 616-17 (Tex. 2007). In determining the best interests of the children, the trial court
has wide latitude, and on review we ask only whether the court acted arbitrarily, unreasonably, or
without reference to any guiding principles. See Coleman v. Coleman, 109 S.W.3d 108, 110 (Tex. App.-
Austin 2003, no pet.). The trial court does not abuse its discretion as to factual matters as long as some
evidence of a substantive and probative character exists to support the decision. In re M.N.G., 147 S.W.
3d 521, 530 (Tex. App.- Fort Worth 2004, pet. denied). Legal and factual sufficiency are not
independent grounds for review in conservatorship cases, but are relevant factors in deciding whether
the trial court abused its discretion. In re W.M., 172 S.W.3d 718, 725 (Tex. App.- Fort Worth 2005, no
Brown primarily argues that as the sole surviving parent he is entitled to sole managing conservatorship
of the children. Brown relies on the parental presumption found in section 153.131 of the Texas Family
Code, which provides that unless the court finds that appointment of the parent would not be in the best
interest of the child because the appointment would significantly impair the child's physical health or
emotional development, a parent shall be appointed sole managing conservator. Tex. Fam. Code Ann.
§ 153.131. Brown admits that genetic testing proved he is not the biological father of the children, but
argues, by virtue of his common-law marriage to the children's mother, that he should be considered
Brown first argues that he considered himself to be the common-law husband of the children's mother,
which entitles him to a presumption of paternity under section 160.204 of the Family Code. Section
160.204(1) provides that a man is presumed to be the father of a child if he is married to the mother of
the child and the child is born during the marriage. However, the presumption of paternity can be
rebutted by genetic testing excluding the husband as the father of the children. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §
160.631. Because the genetic tests excluded Brown as the father, and Brown has failed to produce
other genetic testing showing him to be the father, the presumption under section 160.204 has been
rebutted. Therefore, Brown does not benefit from the parental presumption.
We now turn to whether the trial court abused its discretion in appointing DFPS as sole managing
conservator. A court's primary consideration in any conservatorship case shall always be the best
interests of the children. In re V.L.K., 24 S.W.3d 338, 342 (Tex. 2000). Courts may use the following
nonexhaustive list of factors to determine the children's best interest: (1) the desires of the children; (2)
the emotional and physical needs of the children now and in the future; (3) the emotional and physical
danger to the children now and in the future; (4) the parental abilities of the individual seeking custody;
(5) the programs available to assist the individual to promote the best interest of the children; (6) the
plans for the children by these individuals or by the agency seeking custody; (7) the stability of the
home or proposed placement; (8) the acts or omissions of the parent, or potential conservator, that may
indicate that the existing relationship is not a proper one; and (9) any excuse for the acts or omissions of
the potential conservator. Holley v. Adams, 544 S.W.2d 367, 371B72 (Tex. 1976).
Turning to those factors that are present in this case, we note that the two oldest children were six and
four years old at the time of trial. Although they were not asked specifically with whom they wanted to
live, there was undisputed testimony that they bonded with Brown and treated him as their father. With
regard to the emotional and physical needs of the children and the potential emotional and physical
danger to the children, the primary concern of DFPS and the trial court was that Brown placed the
children at risk by taking them to the home of their aunt. There was conflicting evidence as to whether
Brown put the children in contact with their mother or whether the mother arrived later. Even assuming
Brown did not put the children in contact with their mother, he admitted he took the children to the aunt's
house who showed a propensity for violence in that she stabbed her sister while the children were in the
house. The evidence further showed that while he was living with the children and their mother in 2005,
Brown was convicted of assaulting the children's mother. Further, at the time of trial, Brown was on
community supervision probation for possession of marijuana.
The evidence further showed that Brown owns a trucking business and earns a living by driving a truck,
which required him to leave the children with a full-time babysitter for days at a time. Brown testified that
when he learned that the court would not look favorably on his long absences he hired drivers so he
would not be away from home as often. The evidence also showed that Brown once took the two older
boys on a driving trip in his truck. At the time Brown took the boys, DFPS was the managing
conservator and Brown failed to ask DFPS permission to remove the boys from the state.
Brown's assault and possession convictions should be weighed when considering acts or omissions of
the potential conservator that indicate the existing relationship is not a proper one. As to Brown's
parenting abilities, he testified that he has four biological children: a 30-year-old son, a 26-year-old
son, a 24-year-old daughter, and an 18-year-old daughter. The youngest daughter lives in his home.
The oldest son is currently serving a 15-year sentence for burglary of a habitation, and the 26-year-old
son has several convictions dating back to 1999, including a conviction for sexual assault. The younger
son, who occasionally stays overnight in Brown's home, was recently released from prison where he was
serving a sentence for robbery. With regard to the programs available to help Brown, he testified that
he completed a parenting class ordered by the court.
Monnette Young, the DFPS caseworker, testified that the two older boys are currently living together in
a foster home and the girl is living in another home. Although X.C.B. is demonstrating aggressive,
violent tendencies, he seems to be adjusting and is receiving counseling. The children's foster
placements meet their physical and emotional needs and are in the best interests of the children. DFPS
is attempting to place the children with a family member, if possible.
It is the public policy of this State to resolve conservatorship disputes in a manner that provides a safe,
stable, and nonviolent environment for the child. In re C.A.M.M., 243 S.W.3d 211, 216 (Tex. App.-
Houston [14th Dist.] 2007, pet. denied). Reviewing the evidence in light of the Holley factors, we find the
record supports the trial court's determination that Brown would not provide a safe, stable, and
nonviolent environment for the children. Because the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying
the relief sought in intervention, we overrule Brown's second issue.
In his third issue, Brown argues that the trial court violated the United States and Texas Constitutions by
permitting DFPS to direct the children's moral and religious training. Section 151.001 lists among the
rights and duties of a parent the right to direct the moral and religious training of the child. Tex. Fam.
Code Ann. § 151.001. Brown now argues, for the first time on appeal, that by giving a state agency that
right, the trial court has violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution
and article I, section 6 of the Texas Constitution. Brown did not raise the constitutional issue in the trial
court, his statement of points on appeal, or in his motion for new trial. To preserve his complaint for
appellate review, Brown must have presented to the trial court a timely request, objection, or motion that
states the specific grounds for the desired ruling. See Tex. R. App. P. 33.1. Even a constitutional
challenge can be waived if not properly raised in the trial court. In re Doe 2, 19 S.W.3d 278, 284 (Tex.
2000). Therefore, we overrule his third issue.
In his fourth issue, Brown argues that the trial court erred in entering a final order that incorporates all
prior interlocutory orders because those orders conflict with the terms of the final order. Brown
complains that the court issued temporary orders that described his compliance with a service plan and
that those orders conflict with the final order. Temporary orders are superseded by the entry of a final
judgment and cease to be valid orders. Rafferty v. Finstad, 903 S.W.2d 374, 378 (Tex. App.- Houston
[1st Dist.] 1995, writ denied). Therefore, the trial court did not err in incorporating interlocutory orders
into the final order. Brown's fourth issue is overruled.
The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.
/s/ John S. Anderson
Panel consists of Justices Anderson, Guzman, and Boyce.