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In re J.J.J.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

July 19, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF J.J.J., a Child

         From the 288th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2016-PA-00585 Honorable Charles E. Montemayor, Associate Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice Rebeca C. Martinez, Justice Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          LUZ ELENA D. CHAPA, JUSTICE

         Jane and Joe[1] appeal the termination of their parental rights to J.J.J. Jane and Joe argue there is legally and factually insufficient evidence that termination of their parental rights is in J.J.J.'s best interest. Joe also challenges several of the trial court's findings of statutory grounds to terminate his parental rights. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Background

         When J.J.J. was born in January 2016, he tested positive for cocaine and marijuana, and the Department of Family and Protective Services filed suit for conservatorship and to terminate Jane's and Joe's parental rights. The trial court granted the Department temporary managing conservatorship, and J.J.J. was initially placed with Joe, with Jane being allowed only supervised possession. However, the court ultimately removed J.J.J. from Joe and J.J.J. was placed with a foster-adopt family.

         Before J.J.J. was born, Jane had her rights to another child terminated, and three months before trial in this case, she gave birth to another child who tested positive for drugs, specifically cocaine and methamphetamine.[2] As of the week before trial, Jane and Joe were living at Haven for Hope, which provides temporary housing for the homeless.

         The case proceeded to a bench trial, at which Department caseworker Denise Santos and a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer testified. Jane and Joe did not personally appear.[3] The trial court also admitted a May 2015 order terminating Jane's parental rights to her other child, S.W. After trial, the trial court signed a final judgment awarding the Department conservatorship and terminating Jane's and Joe's parental rights to J.J.J. Jane and Joe appeal.

         Standard of Review

         A judgment terminating parental rights must be supported by clear and convincing evidence. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b) (West Supp. 2016). To determine whether this heightened burden of proof was met, we employ a heightened standard of review to determine whether a "factfinder could reasonably form a firm belief or conviction about the truth of the State's allegations." In re C.H., 89 S.W.3d 17, 25 (Tex. 2002). "This standard guards the constitutional interests implicated by termination, while retaining the deference an appellate court must have for the factfinder's role." In re O.N.H., 401 S.W.3d 681, 683 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2013, no pet.). We do not reweigh issues of witness credibility but defer to the factfinder's reasonable determinations of credibility. In re J.P.B., 180 S.W.3d 570, 573 (Tex. 2005).

         A legal sufficiency review requires us to examine the evidence "in the light most favorable to the finding to determine whether a reasonable trier of fact could have formed a firm belief or conviction that its finding was true." In re J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d 256, 266 (Tex. 2002). We assume the factfinder resolved disputed facts in favor of its finding if a reasonable factfinder could have done so, and we disregard all evidence that a reasonable factfinder could have disbelieved or found incredible. Id. But we may not simply disregard undisputed facts that do not support the finding; to do so would not comport with the heightened burden of proof by clear and convincing evidence. Id. When conducting a factual sufficiency review, we evaluate "whether disputed evidence is such that a reasonable factfinder could not have resolved that disputed evidence in favor of its finding." Id. The evidence is factually insufficient "[i]f, in light of the entire record, the disputed evidence that a reasonable factfinder could not have credited in favor of the finding is so significant that a factfinder could not reasonably have formed a firm belief or conviction." Id.

         Jane's Appeal

         Jane argues there is legally and factually insufficient evidence to support the trial court's finding that termination of her parental rights is in J.J.J.'s best interest. The best-interest determination is a wide-ranging inquiry, and the ...


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