Court of Appeals of Texas, Sixth District, Texarkana
IN THE INTEREST OF W.Q. AND R.Q., CHILDREN
Submitted: February 28, 2017
Appeal from the 6th District Court Red River County, Texas
Trial Court No. CV03759
Morriss, C.J., Moseley and Burgess, JJ.
C. Moseley Justice.
and Wayne's long-standing abuse of drugs led to the
termination of their parental rights to their two youngest
children, R.Q. and W.Q. In this appeal, Bethany and Wayne
contend that the evidence is legally and factually
insufficient to support the trial court's findings that
termination was in the best interests of the children.
See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b)(2) (West
Supp. 2016). We affirm the trial court's judgment because
we find that sufficient evidence supports the trial
court's finding that termination was in the best
interests of the children.
Standard of Review
United States Supreme Court has acknowledged that the right
of parents to maintain custody of and raise their child
"is an interest far more precious than any property
right." Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745,
758-59 (1982). The Texas Supreme Court agrees with this
assessment and has held that a parent's interest in
maintaining custody of and raising its children is paramount.
In re J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d 256, 273 (Tex. 2002);
Holick v. Smith, 685 S.W.2d 18, 20 (Tex. 1985).
"Because the termination of parental rights implicates
fundamental interests, a higher standard of proof-clear and
convincing evidence-is required at trial." In re
A.B., 437 S.W.3d 498, 502 (Tex. 2014). We, therefore,
"engage in an exacting review of the entire record to
determine if the evidence is . . . sufficient to support the
termination of parental rights." Id. at 500.
Further, "involuntary termination statutes are strictly
construed in favor of the parent." In re
S.K.A., 236 S.W.3d 875, 900 (Tex. App.-Texarkana 2007,
pet. denied) (quoting Holick, 685 S.W.2d at 20). An
individual's parental rights to its child may only be
terminated if the trial court finds, "by clear and
convincing evidence, the existence of both of the following
statutory requirements: (1) that the parent has engaged in
one of the statutory grounds for termination and (2) that
termination is in the child's best interest." In
re C.A.J., 459 S.W.3d 175, 178 (Tex. App.-Texarkana
2015, no pet.) (citing Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001
(West 2014); In re E. N.C. , 384 S.W.3d 796, 798
(Tex. 2012); In re C.H., 89 S.W.3d 17, 23 (Tex.
2002)). "Clear and convincing evidence" is that
"degree of proof that will produce in the mind of the
trier of fact a firm belief or conviction as to the truth of
the allegations sought to be established." Tex. Fam.
Code Ann. § 101.007 (West 2014); see In re
J.O.A., 283 S.W.3d 336, 344 (Tex. 2009).
legal sufficiency review, we consider all the evidence in the
light most favorable to the findings of fact to determine
whether the fact-finder reasonably could have formed a firm
belief or conviction that the grounds for termination were
proven. E. N.C. , 384 S.W.3d at 802-03 (citing
In re J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d 256, 266 (Tex. 2002));
In re J.P.B., 180 S.W.3d 570, 573 (Tex. 2005) (per
curiam); C.A.J., 459 S.W.3d at 178. We assume the
trial court, acting as fact-finder, resolved disputed facts
in favor of the finding, if a reasonable fact-finder could do
so, and disregarded evidence that the fact-finder could have
reasonably disbelieved or the credibility of which could be
reasonably doubted. E. N.C. , 384 S.W.3d at 802-03
(citing J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d at 266); J.P.B.,
180 S.W.3d at 573; C.A.J., 459 S.W.3d at 179.
factual sufficiency review, due consideration is given to
evidence that the trial court could have reasonably found to
be clear and convincing. In re H.R.M., 209 S.W.3d
105, 109 (Tex. 2006) (per curiam). We determine "whether
the evidence is such that a fact[-]finder could reasonably
form a firm belief or conviction about the truth of the [ ]
allegations." Id. at 108 (second alteration in
original) (quoting C.H., 89 S.W.3d at 25). "If,
in light of the entire record, the disputed evidence that a
reasonable fact[-]finder could not have credited in favor of
the finding is so significant that a fact[-]finder could not
reasonably have formed a firm belief or conviction, then the
evidence is factually insufficient." In re
J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d 256, 266 (Tex. 2002). Conversely, if
the evidence is such that a reasonable fact-finder could have
reasonably resolved any conflicts to form a firm conviction
that grounds for termination exist, then the evidence is
factually sufficient, and the termination findings must be
upheld. C.H., 89 S.W.3d at 18-19; C.A.J.,
459 S.W.3d at 179. "[I]n making this determination, the
reviewing court must undertake 'an exacting review of the
entire record with a healthy regard for the constitutional
interests at stake.'" A.B., 437 S.W.3d at
503 (quoting C.H., 89 S.W.3d at 26). We also
recognize that the trial court, as the fact-finder, is the
sole arbiter of a witness' demeanor and credibility, and
it may believe all, part, or none of a witness'
testimony. H.R.M., 209 S.W.3d at 109. Further,
"the rights of natural parents are not absolute;
protection of the child is paramount. . . . The rights of
parenthood are accorded only to those fit to accept the
accompanying responsibilities." In re A.V., 113
S.W.3d 355, 361 (Tex. 2003) (quoting In re J.W.T.,
872 S.W.2d 189, 195 (Tex. 1994) (citation omitted)). In other
words, the child's emotional and physical interests will
not be sacrificed merely to preserve parental rights.
C.H., 89 S.W.3d at 26.
Sufficient Evidence Supports Best Interest
their sole point of error, Bethany and Wayne challenge the
legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence supporting the
trial court's finding that termination of their parental
rights was in the best interests of the
children. Bethany and Wayne point to the lack of, or
the scantiness of, evidence as to several of the
Holley factors generally used to test whether
termination is in the best interests of the children and to
their testimony regarding their recent efforts to reform
their lifestyle and to deal with their admitted addictions to
drugs, in arguing that the evidence is insufficient to
support the trial court's finding concerning the best
interests of the children. We agree that there is a paucity
of evidence as to some of the Holley factors, and do
not endorse the apparent strategy of the Texas Department of
Family and Protective Services (Department) in this case to
rely on evidence of only one or two factors to support the
termination of Bethany's and Wayne's parental rights.
As the Supreme Court of Texas has noted, in some cases
"paltry evidence relevant to each consideration
mentioned in Holley would not suffice to uphold the
[fact-finder's] finding that termination is
required." C.H., 89 S.W.3d at 27. Nevertheless,
in other cases,
The absence of evidence about some of these considerations
would not preclude a fact[-]finder from reasonably forming a
strong conviction or belief that termination is in the
child's best interest, particularly if the evidence were
undisputed that the parental relationship endangered the
safety of the child.
Id. We believe this is such a case.
A.The Evidence ...