Court of Appeals of Texas, Seventh District, Amarillo
IN THE INTEREST OF L.P., I.B., P.S.S.-D., K.D., S.J., AND S.J., CHILDREN
Appeal from the 99th District Court Lubbock County, Texas
Trial Court No. 2015-518, 584, Honorable Kara L. Darnell,
CAMPBELL and PIRTLE and PARKER, JJ.
C. Parker Justice
A.M.,  appeals the trial court's Order
terminating her parental rights to five of her six
children who were the subjects of this
suit. We will affirm.
and Procedural Background
December 8, 2015, Lubbock Police were dispatched to a
domestic assault at the home of A.M. A.M. and her
fifteen-year-old son, L.P., had gotten into an argument that
escalated until A.M. used a heated clothing iron to hit L.P.
in the head. A.M. indicated that L.P. hit her first and that
she "blacked out" and cannot remember striking L.P.
The children informed investigators that, in addition to
hitting L.P. in the head, A.M. tried to burn L.P.'s
stomach with the iron and hit L.P. with a chair. A.M. was
arrested and charged with aggravated assault domestic
violence. The Department of Family and Protective Services
determined that there was "reason to believe" that
A.M. had physically abused and been neglectful in her
supervision of the children. The children were removed and
the Department was named temporary managing conservator of
Department has investigated A.M. on multiple occasions over a
span of about eleven years. One of these investigations arose
out of concerns for A.M.'s mental health. However, A.M.
refused to release information regarding her mental health
diagnosis. A.M. stated that she was given medication in
relation to her mental health but she chose not to take it.
A.M. also has an extensive criminal history that includes
convictions for assault, interference with the duties of a
public servant, assault domestic violence, and theft.
the investigation of this case, three of the children made
outcries that A.M. had physically abused the children prior
to the December 8 incident that led to this case. In
addition, a former boyfriend of A.M. testified that she would
physically abuse the children by spanking them for too long
and that she would emotionally abuse the children by saying
"ugly things" to them and cursing at them
regularly. He also testified that A.M. physically assaulted
him on multiple occasions with some assaults occurring in
front of the children. In addition, another boyfriend
physically assaulted A.M. in front of the children.
Nonetheless, A.M. and this boyfriend remain in a
after the Department was named temporary managing conservator
of the children, the trial court signed an "Order for
Actions Necessary for Return of Child(ren), " which
inter alia ordered A.M. to complete the
Department's plan of service, refrain from using any
illegal drugs, submit to drug and alcohol testing requested
by the Department, and avoid criminal conduct. In a
supplemental order, A.M. was required to inter alia
complete a drug and alcohol treatment program, attend AA or
NA meetings three times per week, complete specific parenting
classes, and obtain a mental health screening. While A.M.
claims that she completed the services she was required to
complete, the record reflects that there were many services
that she did not complete. Further, A.M. twice tested
positive for illegal drugs with one of these positive tests
occurring after she completed drug education classes.
addition, while this case was pending, A.M. repeatedly
disrupted the children's placements. A.M. would contact
placements for the children and make spurious claims against
people at the placement and/or threaten people at the
placement. In many instances, this led to the placements
refusing to continue to foster the children. However, even
with these regular disruptions, the children are doing better
under the Department's conservatorship. After initially
trying to reunite the children with A.M., by the time of
trial, the Department's plans were to terminate
A.M.'s parental rights to the children and have the
children adopted. In fact, the foster home to three of the
children at the time of trial might be interested in adopting
all of the children together.
presents a single issue by her appeal. She contends that the
evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support the
termination of A.M.'s parental rights because she
completed the actions required by the Department and
termination is not in the children's best interest.
parent's right to "the companionship, care, custody,
and management" of her children is a constitutional
interest "far more precious than any property
right." Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745,
758-59, 102 S.Ct. 1388, 71 L.Ed.2d 599 (1982). A termination
decree is complete, final, irrevocable, and divests for all
time that natural right as well as all legal rights,
privileges, duties, and powers with respect to each other
except for the child's right to inherit. Holick v.
Smith, 685 S.W.2d 18, 20 (Tex. 1985). As such, the
evidence must be clear and convincing to support an
involuntary termination of parental rights. Id. We
must strictly scrutinize termination proceedings.
Id. at 20-21.
Texas law, to terminate parental rights, it must be proven by
clear and convincing evidence that a parent has committed one
or more of the acts and/or omissions identified in section
161.001(b)(1),  and that termination is in the child's
best interest. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §
161.001(b) (West Supp. 2016). Clear and convincing evidence is
the degree of proof necessary to 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. § 101.007
(West 2014); Transp. Ins. Co. v. Moriel, 879 S.W.2d
10, 31 (Tex. 1994). Only one statutory predicate ground is
required to support termination when there is also a finding
that termination is in the child's best interest. In
re A.V., 113 S.W.3d 355, 362 (Tex. 2003); In re
K.C.B., 280 S.W.3d 888, 894-95 (Tex. App.- Amarillo
2009, pet. denied).
conducting a legal sufficiency challenge, we credit evidence
that supports the verdict if a reasonable factfinder could
have done so, and disregard contrary evidence unless a
reasonable factfinder could not have done so. In re
K.M.L., 443 S.W.3d 101, 112-13 (Tex. 2014). However,
undisputed facts that do not support the verdict should not
be disregarded in determining whether there is clear and
convincing evidence. Id. at 113. Evidence that does
more than raise surmise or suspicion is not sufficient unless
that evidence is capable of producing a firm belief or
conviction that the allegation is true. Id. If,
after conducting a legal sufficiency review, we determine
that no reasonable factfinder could have formed a firm ...