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Family Law No. 01-0706, 7/3/2003. Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS: Texas Family Code �161.001(1)(Q) provides that parental rights may be terminated if the parent has knowingly engaged in criminal conduct for which the parent is incarcerated and unable to care for the child “for not less than two years from the date of filing the petition.” The court decides whether the two years applies to the period before the filing or after, and whether the subsection is unconstitutional if applied to a parent who was incarcerated before the subsection’s effective date. HOLDING: The court reverses the court of appeals’ judgment and renders judgment terminating Pablo Puig’s parental right The phrase “two years from the date of filing the petition” reasonably indicates, consistent with the common usage of the word “from,” a prospective reading. Webster’s Dictionary defines “from” as “to indicate a starting point.” This prospective reading is supported by what words the Legislature used in other subsections of �161.001(1) that specify time periods that must elapse before the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services may assert the particular subsection against the parent. For example, �161.001(1)(B) specifies that a ground for termination exists when the parent has “voluntarily left the child alone or in the possession of another not the parent without expressing an intent to return, without providing for the adequate support of the child, and remained away for a period of at least three months . . . .” Section 161.001(1)(C) provides a termination ground when the parent has “voluntarily left the child alone or in the possession of another without providing adequate support of the child and remained away for a period of at least six months . . . .” In these instances, the Legislature was clear about the retrospective nature of each time period. But in subsection Q, the Legislature does not express that the two-year imprisonment must have occurred before the filing date. Nor is there any indication that the Legislature meant anything other than what it said. The bill analysis discussing the addition of subsection Q states only that the purpose behind adding that subsection was to “expand[] the reasons why a court may order termination.” Accordingly, the court disagrees with the court of appeals’ holding that subsection Q should be read retrospectively. It is to be read prospectively. In reading subsection Q to apply prospectively, the subsection fills a gap left by other grounds for termination. A prospective reading of subsection Q allows the state to act in anticipation of a parent’s abandonment of the child and not just in response to it. Thus, if the parent is convicted and sentenced to serve at least two years and will be unable to provide for his or her child during that time, the state may use subsection Q to ensure that the child will not be neglected. Considering that subsection Q aims to remedy the conditions of abused and neglected children, not to enhance the punishment of the parent, and that subsection Q does not disappoint any reasonable reliance Puig could have placed on the law when he was convicted of the federal offenses, the court holds that subsection Q was not unconstitutionally retroactively applied to Puig. Puig did not challenge in the court of appeals the factual or legal sufficiency of the evidence supporting subsection Q. Accordingly, subsection Q is a valid ground for termination. OPINION: Enoch, J., delivered the opinion of the court.

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