Court of Appeals of Texas, Third District, Austin
THE DISTRICT COURT OF BELL COUNTY, 426TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT
NO. 254, 204, HONORABLE FANCY H. JEZEK, JUDGE PRESIDING
Chief Justice Rose, Justices Field and Bourland
K. Field, Justice.
Phillip Randall Clemons (Father) appeals the trial
court's final order in this suit affecting the
parent-child relationship. In two issues, Father challenges
that portion of the order granting appellee Vianney Lynn
(Mother) the exclusive right to determine the primary
residence of their child. We will affirm the trial
and Father's child, H.C.C., was born on October 2, 2010.
After the relationship between Mother and Father ended,
Mother filed a petition in December 2011 seeking to be
appointed a joint managing conservator with Father and to be
granted the exclusive right to determine H.C.C.'s primary
residence. Father subsequently filed an answer and
counter-petition, also seeking to be named a joint managing
conservator and to be granted the exclusive right to
determine the primary residence of the child without
a final hearing, at which the trial court heard testimony
concerning H.C.C.'s relationship with both Mother and
Father, the trial court signed an order appointing Mother and
Father as joint managing conservators, designating Mother as
the conservator with the right to determine H.C.C.'s
primary residence (with restriction to Bell County, Bexar
County, and their contiguous counties), and requiring Father
to pay child support and provide health insurance for H.C.C.
The trial court later issued findings of fact and conclusions
of law in which the trial court concluded, among other
things, that "the parties both love and support the
child and are appropriate parents to be named joint managing
conservators of H.C.C." and that the court's
decisions regarding conservatorship and access "are in
the best interest of H.C.C." This appeal followed.
review a trial court's decisions regarding
conservatorship, including a determination of which
conservator will have the right to establish the child's
primary residence, for an abuse of discretion. In re
J.A.J., 243 S.W.3d 611, 616 (Tex. 2007). The test for
abuse of discretion is whether the trial court acted in an
arbitrary and unreasonable manner or whether it acted without
reference to any guiding principles. Echols v.
Olivarez, 85 S.W.3d 475, 477 (Tex. App.-Austin 2002, no
family law cases, the abuse-of-discretion standard overlaps
with traditional sufficiency standards of review. Zeifman
v. Michels, 212 S.W.3d 582, 587 (Tex. App.-Austin 2006,
pet. denied); see Miller v. Miller, No.
03-14-00603-CV, 2015 WL 6830754, at *5 (Tex. App.-Austin Nov.
4, 2015, no pet.) (mem. op.). Consequently, legal and factual
sufficiency are not independent grounds of errors but are
relevant factors in determining whether the trial court
abused its discretion. Zeifman, 212 S.W.3d at 587.
In applying the standard, we engage in a two-pronged inquiry:
(1)whether the trial court had sufficient information upon
which to exercise its discretion and (2)whether the trial
court erred in its application of that discretion.
Echols, 85 S.W.3d at 477. The focus of the first
inquiry is the sufficiency of the evidence. Zeifman,
212 S.W.3d at 588. Under the second inquiry, we must decide
whether, based on the evidence before it, the trial court
made a reasonable decision. Id.
determine if the evidence is legally sufficient to support
the trial court's exercise of discretion, we view the
evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court's
findings, crediting favorable evidence if a reasonable
factfinder could and disregarding evidence to the contrary
unless a reasonable factfinder could not. City of Keller
v. Wilson, 168 S.W.3d 802, 807 (Tex. 2005). When
reviewing the evidence for factual sufficiency, we consider
and weigh all the evidence presented and will set aside the
trial court's findings only if they are so contrary to
the overwhelming weight of the evidence such that they are
clearly wrong and unjust. Id. at 826. When the
evidence conflicts, we must presume that the factfinder
resolved any inconsistencies in favor of the order if a
reasonable person could do so. Id. at 822.
trial court is best able "to observe the demeanor and
personalities of the witnesses and [to] 'feel' the
forces, powers, and influences that cannot be discerned by
merely reading the record." Echols, 85 S.W.3d
at 477. The fact that we might decide the issue differently
than the trial court does not establish an abuse of
discretion. Zeifman, 212 S.W.3d at 587. In an appeal
from a bench trial, findings of fact are the equivalent of
jury answers to special issues, and we cannot substitute our
conclusions for those of the trial court if there is
sufficient evidence to support the court's findings.
Echols, 85 S.W.3d at 477. "An abuse of
discretion does not occur as long as some evidence of a
substantive and probative character exists to support the
trial court's decision." Id.
issues on appeal, Father contends that the trial court abused
its discretion in designating Mother as the conservator with
the right to establish H.C.C.'s primary residence
because, according to Father, the evidence is legally and
factually insufficient to support the trial ...