Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio
the 57th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial
Court No. 2016-PA-01687 Honorable Richard Garcia, Judge
Sitting: Marialyn Barnard, Justice Patricia O. Alvarez,
Justice Irene Rios, Justice
MARIALYN BARNARD, JUSTICE
an accelerated appeal from the trial court's order
terminating appellant mother's ("Mother")
parental rights to her child, J.A.T. In her sole issue on
appeal, Mother challenges the sufficiency of the evidence in
support of the trial court's finding that termination was
in J.A.T.'s best interest. We affirm the trial
court's order of termination.
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services ("the
Department") removed nine-year-old J.A.T. from
Mother's custody after concerns regarding Mother's
multiple suicide attempts and repeated arrests regarding
assaultive conduct. The Department placed J.A.T. with his
maternal grandmother and subsequently filed a petition,
seeking to become the temporary managing conservator of
J.A.T. and to terminate Mother's and J.A.T.'s
father's parental rights.During the case, the Department
created a service plan for Mother, which required, among
other things, that she seek domestic violence therapy, obtain
a psychiatric assessment, attend parenting classes, and
maintain stable employment and housing. The trial court
ordered Mother to comply with each requirement set out in the
plan. The record reflects Mother completed only the
psychiatric assessment requirement of her service plan. The
court held the statutorily required status and permanency
hearings, and ultimately, because Mother failed to complete
her service plan, the matter moved to a final hearing, during
which the Department sought to terminate Mother's
hearing, the trial court heard testimony from the following
three individuals: (1) Jennifer DeLong, the Department
caseworker involved in the case; (2) Mother; and (3) Cecilia
Hellrung, the guardian ad litem appointed to represent
Mother's best interest during the course of the case.
After hearing the testimony and taking the case under
advisement, the trial court ordered Mother's parental
rights be terminated. Specifically, the trial court found
Mother failed to comply with the provisions of a court order
that specifically established the actions necessary for her
to obtain the return of J.A.T. See Tex. Fam. Code
Ann. § 161.001(b)(1)(O) (West Supp. 2015). The trial
court further found termination of Mother's parental
rights would be in J.A.T.'s best interest. See
id. § 161.001(b)(2). Accordingly, the trial court
rendered an order terminating Mother's parental rights.
Thereafter, Mother perfected this appeal.
appeal, Mother does not challenge the evidence with regard to
the trial court's findings under section 161.001(b)(1) of
the Texas Family Code ("the Code"). See
id. § 161.001(b)(1)(O). Rather, Mother challenges
the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence in support
of the trial court's finding that termination was in the
best interest of her child. See id. §
parent's right to her child may be terminated by a court
only if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that
the parent committed an act prohibited by section
161.001(b)(1) of the Code and termination is in the best
interest of her child. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b).
"Clear and convincing evidence" is defined 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 termination of a parent's rights to her
child results in permanent and severe changes for both the
parent and child, thus, implicating due process concerns.
In re A.B., 437 S.W.3d 498, 502 (Tex. 2015). When
reviewing the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence,
we apply the well-established standards of review.
See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §§ 101.007,
161.206(a); In re J.P.B., 180 S.W.3d 570, 573 (Tex.
2005) (legal sufficiency); In re H.R.M., 209 S.W.3d
105, 108 (Tex. 2006) (factual sufficiency).
Interests - Substantive Law
is a strong presumption that keeping a child with a parent is
in the child's best interest. In re R.R., 209
S.W.3d 112, 116 (Tex. 2006). However, promptly and
permanently placing a child in a safe environment is also
presumed to be in the child's best interest. Tex. Fam.
Code Ann. § 263.307(a). Thus, to determine whether a
child's parent is willing and able to provide the child
with a safe environment, we consider the factors set forth in
section 263.307(b) of the Texas Family Code. Id.
addition to these statutory factors, we apply the
non-exhaustive Holley factors to our analysis.
See Holley v. Adams, 544 S.W.2d 367, 371-72 (Tex.
1976). Evidence of each Holley factor is not
required before a court may find that termination is in a
child's best interest. In re C.H., 89 S.W.3d 17,
27 (Tex. 2002). The absence of evidence as to some of the
Holley factors does not preclude a trier of fact
from reasonably forming a strong conviction or belief that
termination is in a child's best interest. Id.
Moreover, in conducting our review of a trial court's
best interest determination, we focus on ...