Djeto v. Texas Dept. of Protective and Regulatory Services

In Djeto v. Texas Dept. of Protective and Regulatory Services, 928 S.W.2d 96 (Tex. App.--San Antonio 1996, no writ), Luc Djeto appealed the termination of the parent-child relationship between him and his son, Luke Byars, who was born in March of 1989. At some point in 1992, Djeto suspected that he was Luke's father and agreed to a blood test. See id. In early 1993, at the expense of the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services, the blood test was conducted, conclusively establishing Djeto's paternity as to Luke. See id. After noting the standard to be applied in reviewing a challenge to the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence supporting a termination decree, this court noted that as a precursor to an evidentiary examination of whether a parent has committed one or more of the acts contained in section 161.001, "we must ascertain whether the father had a duty to act or refrain from acting in a particular manner. In order for an enforceable obligation to exist requiring the support of an illegitimate child, there must be a court order, a judicial admission, or an unequivocal acknowledgment of paternity." Id. at 98. After examining the record, the Court noted "varying degrees of equivocation and denial by Djeto about his paternity of Luke; there is no straightforward acknowledgment or judicial admission that Luke is his child." Id. The Court similarly asserted that responsibility for Luke's physical or mental well-being could not be ascribed to Djeto prior to rendition of the order of paternity. Id. The Court concluded that Djeto's acts or omissions regarding Luke prior to that time could not be considered. Id. ince Luke had been in the care and custody of the Department continuously since well before Djeto's paternity was adjudicated, and all visits since that time had been supervised, we vacated the termination order based on insufficient evidence. Id. In Djeto, the two bases alleged for termination were that Djeto had (1) knowingly placed or knowingly allowed the child to remain in conditions or surroundings which endanger the physical or emotional well-being of the child, and (2) failed to support the child in accordance with his ability during a period of one year ending within six months of the date of the petition for termination was filed. Djeto, 928 S.W.2d at 98.