Court of Appeals of Texas, Twelfth District, Tyler
FROM THE COUNTY COURT AT LAW RUSK COUNTY, TEXAS (Tr. Ct. No.
consisted of Worthen, C.J., Hoyle, J., and Neeley, J.
appeals the termination of her parental rights. On appeal,
she presents three issues. We reverse and remand.
the father and R.M. is the mother of S.K.S. and C.H.S. An
order in suit to modify the parent-child relationship signed
on June 25, 2014, required that J.S. be appointed sole
managing conservator of the children and that R.M. be
appointed possessory conservator of the children. Further,
R.M. was obligated to pay child support to J.S. in the amount
of $275 per month beginning on June 1, 2014.
15, 2016, J.S. filed an original petition for termination of
R.M.'s parental rights. R.M. filed a first amended answer
and counter-petition to modify the parent-child relationship.
At the conclusion of the trial on the merits, the trial court
found, by clear and convincing evidence, that R.M. had
engaged in one or more of the acts or omissions necessary to
support termination of her parental rights under subsection
(F) of Texas Family Code section 161.001(b)(1). The trial
court also found that termination of the parent-child
relationship between R.M., S.K.S., and C.H.S. was in the
children's best interest. Based on these findings, the
trial court ordered that the parent-child relationship
between R.M., S.K.S., and C.H.S. be terminated. The trial
court also ordered that J.S. be appointed managing
conservator of the children.
trial court further found that R.M. was ordered to make
periodic payments of child support in the amount of $275 per
month beginning June 1, 2014. The trial court found that R.M.
failed to make payments as ordered, that R.M. was in arrears
in the amount of $8, 250 for the period of June 1, 2014
through November 1, 2016, and interest had accrued in the
amount of $639.38. The trial court ordered that J.S. be
awarded the amount of $8, 889.38 in cumulative child support
arrearages and interest at six percent per year from the date
of the order, or January 18, 2017. This appeal followed.
of Parental Rights
termination of parental rights embodies fundamental
constitutional rights. Vela v. Marywood, 17 S.W.3d
750, 759 (Tex. App.-Austin 2000), pet. denied per
curiam, 53 S.W.3d 684 (Tex. 2001); In re J.J.,
911 S.W.2d 437, 439 (Tex. App.-Texarkana 1995, writ denied).
Because a termination action "permanently sunders"
the bonds between a parent and child, the proceedings must be
strictly scrutinized. Wiley v. Spratlan, 543 S.W.2d
349, 352 (Tex. 1976); In re Shaw, 966 S.W.2d 174,
179 (Tex. App.-El Paso 1998, no pet.).
161.001 of the family code permits a court to order
termination of parental rights if two elements are
established. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001 (West Supp.
2016); In re J.M.T., 39 S.W.3d 234, 237 (Tex.
App.-Waco 1999, no pet.). First, the parent must have engaged
in any one of the acts or omissions itemized in the second
subsection of the statute. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §
161.001(b)(1) (West Supp. 2016); Green v. Tex. Dep't
of Protective & Regulatory Servs., 25 S.W.3d 213,
219 (Tex. App.-El Paso 2000, no pet.); In re J.M.T.,
39 S.W.3d at 237. Second, termination must be in the best
interest of the child. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §
161.001(b)(2) (West Supp. 2016); In re J.M.T., 39
S.W.3d at 237. Both elements must be established by clear and
convincing evidence, and proof of one element does not
alleviate the petitioner's burden of proving the other.
Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001; Wiley, 543
S.W.2d at 351; In re J.M.T., 39 S.W.3d at 237.
clear and convincing standard for termination of parental
rights is both constitutionally and statutorily mandated.
Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001; In re J.J., 911
S.W.2d at 439. Clear and convincing evidence means "the
measure or 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). The burden of proof is
upon the party seeking the deprivation of parental rights.
In re J.M.T., 39 S.W.3d at 240.
confronted with both a legal and factual sufficiency
challenge, an appellate court must first review the legal
sufficiency of the evidence. Glover v. Tex. Gen. Indem.
Co., 619 S.W.2d 400, 401 (Tex. 1981); In re
M.D.S., 1 S.W.3d 190, 197 (Tex. App.-Amarillo 1999, no
pet.). In conducting a legal sufficiency review, we must look
at all 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 findings
were true. In re J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d 256, 266 (Tex.
2002). We must assume that the fact finder settled disputed