Appellant, [Child’s Mother], challenges the trial court’s August 4, 2010 order, entered after a jury trial, appointing appellees, Bryan James Danet and William Todd Kranz, as the sole managing conservators of [Mother]’s minor child, J.A.B. In her first two issues, [Mother] contends that the evidence is legally and factually insufficient to support the jury’s finding that her appointment as sole managing conservator would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development and the trial court erred in not allowing her to present testimony from out-of-state witnesses via telephone. In her third issue, [Mother] requests that this Court enforce the parties’ partial-settlement agreement, signed after the trial court’s order, depending on the resolution of this appeal.
We reverse and render judgment.
On March 31, 2006, Child Protective Services (“CPS”) removed the child from the custody of [Mother] and placed him in the foster care of Danet and Kranz. Although CPS chose not to seek termination of [Mother]’s parental rights, Danet and Kranz, on October 2, 2007, filed their petition in this suit affecting the parent-child relationship (“SAPCR”), seeking appointment as the child’s joint managing conservators. In response, [Mother] filed an amended answer and original counter-petition, seeking appointment as the child’s sole managing conservator. In 2008, the parties entered an agreement naming Kranz and Danet as temporary managing conservators of the child and [Mother] as the temporary possessory conservator of the child during the pendency of court proceedings.
At trial, Kranz testified that he and Danet had taken care of the child for four years and four months. After CPS decided not to seek termination of [Mother]’s parental rights, he and Danet, in October 2007, decided to “get involved in the case” and file their SAPCR petition to be appointed as joint managing conservators. When they first received custody in April 2006, the child was seven months old and suffered from a “very severe diaper rash.” Kranz thought that the child had been “starving,” as if “he didn’t know when his next meal was going to be.” After Kranz and Danet received custody, [Mother] “pretty much abandoned” the child by moving to Wisconsin and not visiting him for six months. She came down to visit the child “on average” only “two [weekends] a year” even though her visitation schedule allowed monthly visits. In addition, [Mother] would occasionally bring with her “different men” whom the child did not know, and she never brought “the same person twice.”
Kranz explained that [Mother] had initially thought that the child’s father was Joseph Alaniz, who was her boyfriend at the time she lost custody of the child. However, a paternity test revealed the father to be George Hogeland, whom [Mother] lived with for five months before she moved to Houston. About four months after losing custody of the child, [Mother] was arrested for “disturbance of the peace” after fighting with Alaniz in a Family Dollar store parking lot. Shortly thereafter, [Mother], pregnant with her second child, who was Alaniz’s son, moved to Wisconsin. After she had given birth to Alaniz’s son, Alaniz “beat the crap out of her in the hospital.” At the time of trial, Alaniz was incarcerated and scheduled to be released in October 2011.
Kranz noted that in late 2006, [Mother] told him that if she were to take a drug test, “it would turn out dirty.” [Mother] was then ordered by CPS to take a drug test within 24 hours, but she did not comply. She had also informed Kranz that Alaniz had a drug problem.
Kranz further testified that in March 2008, [Mother] came to Houston for a weekend visit with the child. After visiting on a Saturday, [Mother] called on Sunday morning, explaining that she was not feeling well and would meet him and the child at the Houston Children’s Museum at noon, an hour later than previously scheduled. She did not arrive at the museum until 2:20 p.m., and she “very sneakily walk[ed] past the admission where you pay.”
Kranz noted that in 2008, [Mother] brought her younger son and a man, “Michael,” on her visit to the child. Afterwards, [Mother] failed to call the child for three weeks because they had “decided to go to New Orleans,” where Michael let “some girl . . . borrow their truck.” [Mother] told Kranz that “the truck [had] disappeared, so [[Mother], her younger son, and Michael] had to take [a] bus back to Wisconsin,” leaving [Mother] without a telephone. In watching [Mother] interact with her other son, Kranz noted that “there doesn’t appear to be respect for her,” and the child “screams at her” and “slaps” people.
Danet testified that during [Mother]’s visits, the child would “get very scared and [cry] at night,” which he described as “very typical after pretty much every visit that he has when [[Mother]] comes into town.” Although Kranz and Danet encouraged [Mother] to call the child and scheduled regular telephone calls, sometimes they “would come home for the phone call and then she wouldn’t call at all.” In the six months prior to trial, the child would complain that he did not want to talk with [Mother]. However, Danet explained that if he and Kranz were to be appointed managing conservators, they would still encourage the child to remain in contact with [Mother].
Linda McDonald, a co-worker and family friend of Kranz and Danet, testified that in August 2008, she supervised one of [Mother]’s visits. Once, when [Mother] “wanted to make a special celebration” for the child’s birthday, they visited her at a local hotel where [Mother] was staying. [Mother] had brought her younger son and a “friend that was introduced as Dennis,” who had “very little interaction” with the child. The amount of time that [Mother] spent with the child was “very limited.”
Rebecca Weiser, a co-worker and friend of Kranz, testified that in August 2009, she supervised a visit at the hotel in which [Mother] was staying. She noted that while the child was in the hotel pool, he “went under three times,” and Weiser had to “pull him up out of the water” each time. This caused her to be “concern[ed] for [the child’s] safety.” On cross-examination, Weiser admitted that she did not move to terminate the visitation or contact CPS after the incident and that Kranz was supervising the child as well.
[Mother] testified that when she, with her mother, moved to Houston in December 2004, she was unaware that she was already pregnant with the child. Shortly after arriving in Houston, she met Alaniz and, despite his abusive tendencies, she later moved into a house with him in mid-2005. She noted that Alaniz would hide her driver’s license, delete her telephone numbers, and attempt to control her. In December 2005, police officers were dispatched to their home to investigate alleged domestic violence, and, by March 2006, [Mother] was “just waiting for an opportunity to get out” and move away from Alaniz. She explained that she should have left the relationship sooner, but she was “really screwed up” at the time and “dismissed a lot of [Alaniz’s] behavior” because she “thought it was important to have a family unit.”
On the morning of March 31, 2006, [Mother] planned to escape from Alaniz’s abuse and take her child with her. The child had been diagnosed with “thrush,” a yeast infection, which, [Mother] explained, accounted for his diaper rash. To treat the thrush, she packed two antibiotics prescribed by the child’s pediatrician. Because Alaniz had hidden her driver’s license, [Mother] had to “go through half the house” to find it and left the house “messy.” She then took the child with her to a bus stop to take a bus to her mother’s house in Wisconsin while Alaniz was away. However, Alaniz found [Mother] at a bus stop, confronted her, and accused her of being a “drug user.” He then “[took] off on a bicycle with” the child, [Mother] called for emergency assistance, and a police officer drove her back to the house in a patrol car. Alaniz and the child were already at the house, and the police officer, after questioning [Mother] and Alaniz, took the child away in a patrol car. [Mother] explained that because the officer had taken the child away, she did not have time to feed him or apply his thrush medication. [Mother] was quite upset and spent the weekend in a hotel room. She then attended a court hearing the following Monday, and the court ordered her to submit to a narcotics test, which came back positive for cocaine. She submitted an affidavit in which she named Alaniz as the child’s father, which she believed to be true at the time. The child was not returned to [Mother] at the hearing.
After the hearing, [Mother] moved back to Wisconsin to join her mother and notified CPS that she had moved. In June 2006, CPS informed her that it would seek “unrelated adoption” for the child. [Mother] then returned to Houston for a second hearing, and CPS submitted to her a Family Service Plan (“FSP”). [Mother] understood that she could regain custody of the child if she “not just completed [the FSP] but did . . . very well.” Later, in the summer of 2006, [Mother] stayed in Houston with Alaniz. She attended parenting courses, underwent a psychological evaluation, and stayed two nights at an “in-patient drug facility” pursuant to the FPS.
In September of 2006, [Mother] returned to Wisconsin, and Alaniz followed her. After the birth of her second child, Alaniz “beat [her] up” in the hospital room and was arrested. [Mother] later bought Alaniz a bus ticket to return to Houston, while she remained in Wisconsin. There, she followed the FSP by taking parenting and relationship courses, attending drug and domestic violence counseling sessions, and undergoing follow-up psychological evaluations. At the time, she was working as a cashier at a dollar store and had a second job “doing clerical work.” She was living in “Section 8 housing” with her mother and second child and receiving food stamps.
[Mother] admitted that she had previously been arrested in Massachusetts on a charge relating to heroin, and, in 1999, she was convicted in Wisconsin for possession of marijuana and battery. She also admitted that, in 2006, she used cocaine while pregnant with her younger son, causing her to fail the court-ordered narcotics test. [Mother] further admitted that in July 2007, she was scheduled to fly to Houston for a visitation, but the airline would not allow her on the plane “due to [her] intoxication,” so she boarded an early flight the next morning.
[Mother] explained that if she was awarded custody of the child, she would take him back to Wisconsin and continue to live with her mother. She noted that her family could not come to Houston to visit the child because her mother had health problems and Kranz and Danet were not cooperative with them. Specifically, [Mother] asserted that they were “alienating” and “isolating” her from the child. Kranz and Danet would not disclose the child’s medical records to her, moved him to different schools without informing her, and “took him out of school” when [Mother] planned to visit him in class. She further explained that the financial burden of traveling to Houston and the time that it took to raise her second son made it difficult for her to make regular trips to Houston.
Sufficiency of the Evidence
In her first issue, [Mother] argues that the evidence is legally and factually insufficient to support the jury’s finding that her appointment as sole managing conservator would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development. She asserts that most of the evidence against her relates only to her “past conduct . . . which occurred approximately four or more years prior to trial . . . [and] does not implicate [her] present parental fitness.” [Mother] further asserts that the evidence is “legally insufficient to overcome the parental presumption as a matter of law” and consists of “minor, insubstantial conduct” that only establishes that she is an “imperfect person.”
Danet and Kranz argue that the evidence is legally and factually sufficient to support the jury’s finding that they should be the child’s sole managing conservators because removing the child from their home at the time of trial “would significantly impair his emotional development.” They also assert that
[T]he jury heard evidence that [[Mother]’s] bad parenting would significantly impair [the child’s] physical health or emotional development. Less than a year before trial, [the child] nearly drowned in a swimming pool while [[Mother]] was supposed to be watching him. And [[Mother]] repeatedly made extraordinarily bad decisions related to her visits with [the child], including being so drunk at the airport that she was not allowed to fly. The evidence, therefore, supports the jury’s finding that awarding [[Mother]] sole managing conservatorship would significantly impair [the child’s] physical health or emotional development.
We will sustain a legal-sufficiency or “no-evidence” challenge if the record shows one of the following: (1) a complete absence of evidence of a vital fact, (2) rules of law or evidence bar the court from giving weight to the only evidence offered to prove a vital fact, (3) the evidence offered to prove a vital fact is no more than a scintilla, or (4) the evidence conclusively establishes the opposite of the vital fact. City of Keller v. Wilson, 168 S.W.3d 802, 810 (Tex. 2005). In conducting a legal-sufficiency review, a court must consider evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict and indulge every reasonable inference that would support it. Id. at 822. The term “inference” means,
In the law of evidence, a truth or proposition drawn from another which is supposed or admitted to be true. A process of reasoning by which a fact or proposition sought to be established is deduced as a logical consequence from other facts, or a state of facts, already proved. . . .
Marshall Field Stores, Inc. v. Gardiner, 859 S.W.2d 391, 400 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 1993, writ dism’d w.o.j.) (citing Black’s Law Dictionary 700 (5th ed. 1979)). For a jury to infer a fact, “it must be able to deduce that fact as a logical consequence from other proven facts.” Id.
If there is more than a scintilla of evidence to support the challenged finding, we must uphold it. Formosa Plastics Corp. USA v. Presidio Eng’rs & Contractors, Inc., 960 S.W.2d 41, 48 (Tex. 1998). “‘[W]hen the evidence offered to prove a vital fact is so weak as to do no more than create a mere surmise or suspicion of its existence, the evidence is no more than a scintilla and, in legal effect, is no evidence.’” Ford Motor Co. v. Ridgway, 135 S.W.3d 598, 601 (Tex. 2004) (quoting Kindred v. Con/Chem, Inc., 650 S.W.2d 61, 63 (Tex. 1983)). If the evidence allows only one inference, neither jurors nor the reviewing court may disregard it. Id. However, if the evidence at trial would enable reasonable and fair-minded people to differ in their conclusions, then the fact-finder must be allowed to do so. Id. A reviewing court cannot substitute its judgment for that of the fact-finder, so long as the evidence falls within this zone of reasonable disagreement. Id.
In conducting a factual-sufficiency review, we must consider, weigh, and examine all of the evidence that supports or contradicts the fact-finder’s determination. Plas-Tex, Inc. v. U.S. Steel Corp., 772 S.W.2d 442, 445 (Tex. 1989). We may set aside a verdict only if the evidence supporting it is so contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence as to be clearly wrong or manifestly unjust. Cain v. Bain, 709 S.W.2d 175, 176 (Tex. 1986). When conducting a factual-sufficiency review, we must not merely substitute our judgment for that of the fact-finder. Golden Eagle Archery v. Jackson, 116 S.W.3d 757, 761 (Tex. 2003). The fact-finder is the sole judge of the credibility of witnesses and the weight to be given to their testimony. Id.
In any case involving an issue of conservatorship, the best interest of the child must always be the primary consideration of the trial court. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 153.002 (Vernon 2008). The court must presume that the best interest of the child is served by appointing a biological parent as sole managing conservator or both biological parents as joint managing conservators. See id. § 153.131(a) (Vernon 2008); see also In re V.L.K., 24 S.W.3d 338, 341 (Tex. 2000); Mumma v. Aguirre, 364 S.W.2d 220, 221 (Tex. 1963). Nonparents seeking conservatorship carry a “heavy burden” of overcoming this presumption. Lewelling v. Lewelling, 796 S.W.2d 164, 167 (Tex. 1990). It is no longer adequate to offer evidence that a nonparent would be a better custodian of a child. Id. Instead, the parental presumption may only be rebutted with proof of certain findings prescribed by statute. Id.
A nonparent may rebut the presumption in favor of a biological parent only if evidence is produced showing that appointment of the biological parent as managing conservator would “significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development.” Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 153.131(a); see In re R.T.K., 324 S.W.3d 896, 902–03 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2010, pet. denied). A nonparent may also overcome the presumption by producing evidence of “a history or pattern of past . . . physical . . . abuse by [a] parent directed against the other parent, a spouse, or a child.” Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 153.004(b) (Vernon 2008). In disputes between a parent and a nonparent, the Texas Legislature has mandated that “close calls” should be decided in favor of the biological parent. Lewelling, 796 S.W.2d at 168. Here, the trial court instructed the jury, in pertinent part, as follows:
The biological parent shall be appointed sole managing conservator, in preference to a non-parent, unless appointment of the biological 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.
“Significantly Impair” means the non-parent must affirmatively prove by a preponderance of the evidence through specific actions or omissions of the parent that demonstrate that an award of custody to the parent would result in physical or emotional harm to the child.
[Mother] notes that much of the record evidence, including evidence of the child’s “severe diaper rash” and the condition of her and Alaniz’s home when police officers took the child, her use of cocaine while she was unknowingly pregnant with her second child, her two misdemeanor convictions, and her intoxication at an airport in 2007, concerns conduct that occurred three or more years prior to trial. She asserts that this evidence does not implicate her “present parental fitness” or support the jury’s finding that her conservatorship would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development.
In support of her assertion, [Mother] relies on In re S.W.H, 72 S.W.3d 772 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth 2002, no pet.). In S.W.H, the court held that evidence that a mother had been twice incarcerated for testing positive for narcotics, in violation of her probation and more than four years prior to trial, was insufficient to support a finding that the appointment of the mother as managing conservator of the child would significantly impair the child. Id. at 777–78. Noting that the mother had presented uncontroverted evidence that she had remained “clean” for three years prior to trial, the court explained that “evidence of past misconduct may not, by itself, be sufficient to show present parental unfitness.” Id. at 778. Furthermore, the Thirteenth Court of Appeals has noted that if a parent “is presently a suitable person to have custody, the fact that there was a time in the past when the parent would not have been a proper person to have such custody is not controlling.” May v. May, 829 S.W.2d 373, 377 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi 1992, writ denied); see also In re M.W., 959 S.W.2d 661, 666 (Tex. App.—Tyler 1997, writ denied) (“When determining fitness of a parent, the material time to consider is the present.”). However, past misconduct may be considered due to the “permissible inference that an adult person’s future conduct may well be measured by [their] recent deliberate past conduct as it may be related to the same or a similar situation.” Id.
Here, Kranz and Danet’s evidence concerning [Mother]’s more recent conduct in Houston does reveal that [Mother] brought different men with her on her visits with the child, visited the child only twice a year after losing custody of him, showed up late to a visit, tried to board an airplane while intoxicated, “snuck” into the Houston Children’s Museum, and, after travelling to New Orleans following a visit with the child, did not call the child for three weeks. Weiser did also testify that the child, during one of [Mother]’s visits at a hotel, “went under” the water in a pool three times and she had to pull him out of the water. This evidence, however, does not establish that [Mother]’s past misconduct is sufficiently linked to her fitness, at the time of trial, to be the child’s custodian. Kranz and Danet did not present evidence that [Mother]’s past drug use, misdemeanor criminal history, or Alaniz’s domestic violence, all of which occurred approximately four or more years prior to trial, constitute ongoing problems or part of a more recent pattern of behavior. Thus, the jury could not have reasonably inferred that [Mother]’s more remote conduct implicated her parental fitness, at the time of trial, such that the appointment of her as the sole managing conservator of the child would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development. See May, 829 S.W.2d at 376–77.
Furthermore, Kranz and Danet’s evidence of [Mother]’s more recent conduct does not itself constitute evidence that the appointment of [Mother] as the sole managing conservator of the child would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development. Again, “[i]t is no longer adequate to offer evidence that the nonparent would be a better custodian of the child.” Lewelling, 796 S.W.2d at 167. The jury could have reasonably inferred that Kranz and Danet would be better custodians of the child based on [Mother]’s actions in sneaking into the Houston Children’s Museum, bringing different men to her visits with the child, and, after a visit with the child, taking a spontaneous trip to New Orleans and not calling the child. However, there is no evidence that [Mother]’s conduct, albeit clearly inappropriate, constitutes “specific actions or omissions” that demonstrate that awarding her conservatorship would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 151.131(a).
Kranz and Danet rely heavily on their evidence that the child “nearly drowned” during one of [Mother]’s visits. Although Weiser did testify that he “went under” water three times at a hotel swimming pool during a visit, there is no evidence that the child “nearly drowned.” Indeed, the child was accompanied by three adults: [Mother], Weiser, and Kranz. And [Mother] had to watch her younger son as well during the visit. Given these undisputed facts, the jury could not have reasonably inferred that the incident constitutes evidence that [Mother]’s conservatorship would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development.
Finally, Kranz and Danet argue that, even without reference to [Mother]’s conduct, “removing [the child] from the only home he has ever known” would “significantly impair his emotional development.” This court has recently held that a trial court could have reasonably concluded that removing a child from “the only person who has consistently cared” for the child would “significantly impair” the child’s development. McPherson v. Hollyer, No. 01-09-00619-CV, 2011 WL 1632163, at *6 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] Apr. 28, 2011, no pet.) (quoting In re K.R.P., 80 S.W.3d 669, 674 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2002, pet. denied)).
Here, as noted above, the trial court’s charge to the jury included an instruction stating that “significantly impair” means “the non-parent must affirmatively prove by the preponderance of the evidence through specific actions or omissions of the parent that demonstrate that an award of custody to the parent would result in physical or emotional harm to child.” (Emphasis added.) [Mother] notes that the charge explicitly required Kranz and Danet to prove “specific acts or omissions” on her part to override the parental presumption in her favor and, regardless of our holding in McPherson, “it is the court’s charge . . . that measures the sufficiency of the evidence when the opposing party fails to object.” Osterburg v. Peca, 12 S.W.3d 31, 55 (Tex. 2000).
“When neither party objects to a jury instruction, an appellate court must review the sufficiency of the evidence in light of the instruction actually given, even if the statement of the law in the charge is not correct, and even if the charge as given effectively increases the burden of proof on a party beyond that actually required by the correct law or results in a ‘more rigorous’ standard of proof.” See Reliant Energy Servs., Inc. v. Cotton Valley Compression, L.L.C., 336 S.W.3d 764, 782 (Tex. App.—Houston 2011, no pet.) (citing Romero v. KPH Consol., Inc., 166 S.W.3d 212, 220–21 (Tex. 2005); Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Sturges, 52 S.W.3d 711, 715 (Tex. 2001); City of Fort Worth v. Zimlich, 29 S.W.23d 62, 71 (Tex. 2000); IP Petroleum Co., Inc. v. Wevanco Energy, L.L.C., 116 S.W.3d 888, 897, n.8 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2003, pet. denied)).
Here, the trial court’s charge to the jury explicitly required that Kranz and Danet prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that “specific actions or omissions” of [Mother] demonstrated that her custody of the child would result in physical or emotional harm to the child. Thus, the jury could not rely solely on Kranz and Danet’s evidence that removing the child from their custody would be difficult and traumatic for the child. In sum, Kranz and Danet did not present any evidence of [Mother]’s specific acts or omissions from which a fact finder could reasonably infer that the appointment of [Mother], the child’s biological parent, as sole managing conservator of the child would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development. Accordingly, we hold that the evidence is legally insufficient to support the jury’s finding that Kranz and Danet, as non-parents, should be appointed the child’s managing conservators. See City of Keller, 168 S.W.3d 802 at 810.
We sustain [Mother]’s first issue.
We reverse the order of the trial court and render an order appointing [Mother] as sole managing conservator of the child. We also modify the order pursuant to the parties’ partial-settlement agreement and appoint Kranz and Danet as possessory conservators.
Panel consists of Justices Jennings, Sharp, and Brown.
SOURCE: HOUSTON COURT OF APPEALS - 01-10-00963-CV – 4/12/2012
 See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 153.005 (Vernon 2008).
 See Tex. R. Civ. P. 11.
 To the extent that Kranz and Danet argue that any harmful effect of removing the child from their custody would be precipitated by an act or omission of [Mother], whether by her moving to Wisconsin or visiting the child only twice a year, on average, since losing custody, [Mother] notes that she moved to Wisconsin for the purpose of escaping from Alaniz and living with her mother. She also notes that she did not have the economic means to make more frequent visits to Houston to visit the child. Furthermore, “the fact that [the child] has lived with [Kranz and Danet] for such a lengthy period is largely attributable to delays” in the judicial proceedings. See Lewelling, 796 S.W.2d at 168 n.9 (noting parent was not at fault for “lengthy appeals process,” so length of time child spent with non-parents was largely “judicially created”). Using such a fact to deny a parent conservatorship of her child would “thwart the legislatively-mandated parental preference.” Id.
 In her third issue, [Mother] asks, as do Kranz and Danet, that this court enforce the agreement that “[i]n the event that the Court of Appeals reverses the judgment of the Trial Court and renders judgment appointing [Child’s Mother] as the sole managing conservator . . . [Mother] agrees that [Kranz and Danet] shall be appointed as possessory conservators at the conclusion of this appeal. In this event, the Parties agree to jointly request the Court of Appeals to implement this Agreement by rendering judgment appointing [Kranz and Danet] as possessory conservators.” See Tex. R. Civ. P. 11. Because we reverse the judgment of the trial court and render judgment in favor of [Mother], we render an order appointing Kranz and Danet as possessory conservators pursuant to the terms of the parties’ agreement. See Tex. R. App. P. 42.1(a)(2)(A) (permitting appellate court to render judgment effectuating agreement of parties).