Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio
the 166th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial
Court No. 2015PA02475 Honorable Charles E. Montemayor, Judge
Sitting: Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice Rebeca C.
Martinez, Justice Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice
C. Martinez, Justice
appeals the trial court's order terminating his parental
rights to his son, R.R.A. On appeal, M.A. argues that the
evidence was legally and factually insufficient to support
the trial court's findings that he committed a predicate
act required for termination and that termination was in his
son's best interest. We affirm the trial court's
November 25, 2015, the Texas Department of Family and
Protective Services filed a petition for protection of a
child, for conservatorship, and for termination in a suit
affecting the parent-child relationship. The suit requested
termination of M.A.'s and J.W.'s parental rights to
their son, R.R.A. The case proceeded to a bench trial on
October 20, 2016.
Jolliffe, the removing caseworker, testified that at the time
of his removal from his parents' care, R.R.A. was four
years old. According to Jolliffe, the Department began
investigating the family due to reports of R.R.A.'s
mother, J.W., being homeless, appearing to be under the
influence of drugs, and having psychiatric issues. J.W.
admitted to drug use and told the caseworker that she and
M.A. "were engaging in Ice together." J.W. denied
being a victim of domestic violence but after she was
admitted to the hospital with a swollen jaw and black eye,
she did admit that there was a domestic violence problem. At
the time the Department sought removal of R.R.A., J.W. was
residing at the Battered Women's Shelter. She refused to
cooperate with the Department, and shortly thereafter
absconded to California with R.R.A. and M.A.
Bishop, the current legal caseworker, testified that M.A. was
absent for most of the case and refused to do any of the
services on his court-ordered service plan. M.A. did not
visit with the child. M.A. had recently-approximately one
month prior to trial-asked for services to be set up in
Odessa where he was residing. Bishop stated that she
attempted to email a letter outlining the services, but the
email address M.A. had provided was incorrect. Bishop then
mailed the letter to M.A. via certified mail and also texted
and called M.A., but at the time of trial, had not heard back
from him. She did, however, receive confirmation that M.A.
had received the letter. Bishop was not able to substantiate
whether M.A. used drugs or whether he inflicted domestic
violence on J.W.
testified that upon R.R.A.'s return to San Antonio, he
was placed with his maternal grandmother, who had also
adopted his older brother. She stated that R.R.A. was doing
well there-doing good in school and interacting well with
this older brother and cousins who also reside in the home.
On cross-examination, Bishop stated that before the
Department filed its petition for termination, R.R.A. was
behind on his vaccinations and suffered from a crossed eye.
Under the care of his grandmother, R.R.A.'s vaccinations
were up to date and he was being treated by an optometrist
for his eye.
testified that he currently resides in Odessa but was living
in San Antonio in the fall of 2015. He stated that he had not
used illegal drugs in the past year and denied engaging in
domestic violence with J.W. He stated that he moved to
California to give J.W. a fresh start. M.A. claimed that he
was unaware the Department was investigating the family prior
to the move to California. He testified that he was not
trying to hide from the Department and had applied for health
insurance for the child and for food stamps. He also
attempted to get medical care for R.R.A. while in California,
including physicals and an eye exam. He last saw R.R.A. at
the end of February 2016 and had not tried to visit with him
since because he felt like his rights had been violated. M.A.
did not understand why R.R.A. had been removed from his care
and stated that he was never served with any papers. M.A.
stated that he missed his son, but he refused to do what the
Department asked of him because "it's all
wrong" and he should have had the opportunity to present
M., R.R.A.'s maternal grandmother, testified that in
August of 2015, her daughter, J.W., came to her with issues
of domestic violence. J.W. was constantly texting her about
it. Tammy stated that J.W. and M.A. were wandering around
from motel to motel and there was an incident in August 2015
where Tammy had to take J.W. to the hospital. J.W. thought
M.A. "was shooting her up while she was [a]sleep."
Tammy observed that J.W. had a black eye and stated that J.W.
often told her M.A. was physically abusing her. Tammy stated
that both M.A. and J.W. knew the Department was investigating
them before "they ran to California." J.W. called
Tammy saying M.A. had kidnapped her, but Tammy could not say
whether that was true. Tammy explained that J.W. was not
"of sound mind. She does have mental issues." Tammy
further explained that J.W. had been diagnosed as bipolar and
schizo-affective, and also suffered from memory lapses due to
chemotherapy treatment and radiation. Tammy stated that if
both parents' parental rights were terminated, she was
willing to adopt R.R.A.
hearing all the evidence, the trial court signed an order
terminating M.A.'s parental rights to R.R.A. See
Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b)(1)(N), (O), (P) (West
Supp. 2016). The trial court also found that termination of
M.A.'s parental rights was in the child's best
interest. M.A. now appeals, arguing the evidence is legally
and factually insufficient to support the trial court's
findings that he committed a predicate act required for
termination and that termination was in R.R.A.'s best
rights may be terminated only upon proof of clear and
convincing evidence that (1) the parent has committed an act
prohibited by section 161.001(b)(1) of the Texas Family Code,
and (2) termination is in the best interest of the child.
See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b) (West
Supp. 2016). Under the clear-and-convincing-evidence
standard, evidence is legally sufficient if it is "such
that a factfinder could reasonably form a firm belief or
conviction about the truth of the matter on which the State
bears the burden of proof." In re J.F.C., 96
S.W.3d 256, 265-66 (Tex. 2002); see Tex. Fam. Code
Ann. § 101.007 (West 2014) (defining clear and
convincing evidence). We review "the evidence in the
light most favorable to the judgment, " meaning that we
"must assume that the factfinder resolved disputed facts
in favor of its finding if a reasonable factfinder could do
so." In re J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d at 266. "If,
after conducting its legal sufficiency review of the record
evidence, a court determines that no reasonable factfinder
could form a firm belief or conviction that the matter that
must be proven is true, then that court must conclude that
the evidence is legally insufficient." Id.
"In a bench ...