Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio
IN THE INTEREST OF A.F.C., I.C.C., and A.R.H. Jr., Children
the 225th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial
Court No. 2015PA01986 Honorable Charles E. Montemayor, Judge
Marialyn Barnard, Rebeca C. Martinez, Luz Elena D. Chapa,
Marialyn Barnard, Justice.
an appeal from the trial court's order terminating
appellant mother's ("Mother") rights to her
children, A.F.C., I.C.C., and A.R.H. Jr. On appeal, Mother
contends the evidence is legally and factually insufficient
to support the trial court's finding that termination is
in the children's best interests. We affirm the trial
court's termination order.
record shows the Texas Department of Family and Protective
Services ("the Department") first became involved
with Mother based on a referral alleging mental health
concerns, domestic violence, and drug use. After Family Based
Services proved unsuccessful, the Department filed its
petition for termination of Mother's parental rights in
the event reunification proved impossible. The Department
removed the children from Mother's care. Upon removal,
the Department placed the two girls, A.F.C. and I.C.C., in
foster care, and placed A.R.H. Jr., a half-brother to the
girls, with his paternal grandmother. At the time the
petition was filed, A.F.C. and I.C.C. were six and five years
old, respectively; A.R.H. Jr. was one.
Department created a service plan for Mother which required,
among other things, that she attend counseling, parenting
courses, and an outpatient drug program. The trial court
ordered Mother to comply with each requirement set out in the
plan. Mother did not complete the requirements of her service
plan. Despite the service plan requirements, Mother tested
positive for methamphetamines on at least three occasions,
and was discharged from a drug treatment program for
noncompliance. Twice during this case, Mother was accused of
assaulting her own mother, with whom she was living. She was
twice incarcerated for the assaults and for a violation of
the case, the trial court held the statutorily-required
status and permanency hearings. Ultimately, the matter moved
to a final hearing, during which the Department sought to
terminate Mother's parental rights. After considering the evidence, the trial
court terminated Mother's parental rights, finding she:
(1) knowingly placed or knowingly allowed the children to
remain in conditions or surroundings which endangered the
physical or emotional well-being of the children; (2) engaged
in conduct or knowingly placed the children with persons who
engaged in conduct which endangered the physical or emotional
well-being of the children; (3) failed to comply with the
provisions of a court order that specifically established the
actions necessary for her to obtain the return of her
children; and (4) used a controlled substance in a manner
that endangered the health or safety of the children and
either failed to complete a court-ordered substance abuse
treatment program or after completing a court-ordered
substance abuse treatment program, continued to abuse a
controlled substance. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §
161.001(b)(1)(D), (E), (O), (P) (West Supp. 2016).
Additionally, the trial court found termination of
Mother's parental rights was in the best interests of the
children. See id. § 161.001(b)(2). Thereafter,
Mother perfected this appeal.
appeal, Mother does not contest the trial court's
findings under sections 161.001(b)(1) of the Texas Family
Code ("the Code"). See Tex. Fam. Code Ann.
§ 161.001(b)(1)(D), (E), (O), (P). Rather, she contends
only that the evidence is legally and factually insufficient
to support the trial court's finding that termination was
in the children's best interests. See id. §
may terminate a parent's rights to her children only if
the court finds by clear and convincing evidence the parent
violated a provision of section 161.001(1) and termination is
in the best interests of the children. Id. §
161.001(1), (2). The Code defines "clear and convincing
evidence" as "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."
Id. § 101.007. Courts require this heightened
standard of review because the termination of parental rights
results in permanent and unalterable changes for both parent
and child. In re J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d 256, 263 (Tex.
2002). Thus, when reviewing a termination order, we must
determine whether the evidence is such that a fact finder
could reasonably form a firm belief or conviction that
termination was in the child's best interest.
J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d at 267; In re C.H., 89
S.W.3d 17, 25 (Tex. 2002).
addressing a legal sufficiency challenge in parental
termination cases, the court views the evidence in the light
most favorable to the trial court's findings and
judgment, and any disputed facts are resolved in favor of the
trial court's findings if a reasonable fact finder could
have so resolved them. J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d at
267. The court must disregard all evidence that a
reasonable fact finder could have disbelieved and consider
undisputed evidence even if such evidence is contrary to the
trial court's findings. Id. In other words, we
consider evidence favorable to termination if a reasonable
fact finder could, and we disregard contrary evidence unless
a reasonable fact finder could not. Id.
addressing the factual sufficiency challenge, we give due
deference to the trier of fact's findings, avoiding
substituting our own judgment for that of the fact finder.
C.H., 89 S.W.3d at 27. "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 fact finder could not reasonably have formed
a firm belief or conviction[in the truth of the finding],
then the evidence is factually insufficient."
J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d at 266.
conducting a sufficiency review, we may not weigh a
witness's credibility because it depends on appearance
and demeanor, and these are within the domain of the trier of
fact. In re J.P.B., 180 S.W.3d 570, 573 (Tex. 2005).
Even when such issues are found in the appellate record, we
must defer to the fact finder's reasonable resolutions.