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In re A.F.V.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

August 2, 2017

IN THE INTEREST OF A.F.V., a Child

          From the 225th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2016-PA-00142 Honorable Richard Garcia, Judge Presiding

          Karen Angelini, Justice, Marialyn Barnard, Justice Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice

         Joseph appeals the trial court's order terminating his parental rights to his son A.F.V. (born in 2015).[1] He contends there is legally and factually insufficient evidence that termination of his parental rights is in A.F.V.'s best interest. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Background

         In January 2016, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of A.F.V.'s parents, Joseph and Mahogany. The Department removed A.F.V. based on allegations that he tested positive for amphetamines and methamphetamines at birth and on alleged concerns about the parents' ongoing drug abuse and domestic violence. A.F.V. was placed with his maternal grandmother, and Mahogany voluntarily relinquished her parental rights.

         The case proceeded to a bench trial, at which Joseph, Mahogany, and Department caseworkers Eva Filoteo, Angelica Villarreal, and Monika Karki testified. Taylor Blake, who performed a substance abuse assessment on Joseph, also testified. The trial court thereafter terminated Joseph's parental rights[2] based on his use of a controlled substance and his failure to comply with provisions of his court-ordered family service plan. The trial court also found termination of Joseph's parental rights is in A.F.V.'s best interest. Joseph appeals, challenging only the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence to support the trial court's best-interest finding.

         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.

         Child's Best Interest

         The best-interest determination is a wide-ranging inquiry, and the Texas Supreme Court has set out some factors relevant to the determination:

• the desires of the child;
• the emotional and physical needs of the child now and ...

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