Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio
IN THE INTEREST OF M.C.L., K.R.L., and M.C.L., Children
the 225th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial
Court No. 2016PA01348 Honorable Richard Garcia, Judge
Sitting: Marialyn Barnard, Justice Rebeca C. Martinez,
Justice Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice.
Marialyn Barnard, Justice.
an accelerated appeal from the trial court's order
terminating appellant father's ("Father")
parental rights to his three children. On appeal, Father
contends the evidence is legally and factually insufficient
to support the trial court's finding that termination was
in the children's best interests. We affirm the trial
court's order of termination.
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services ("the
Department") became involved with the family based on
allegations of drug abuse, domestic violence, neglectful
supervision, and physical neglect. The Department placed John
with his maternal grandparents and the two younger boys with
their maternal aunt and uncle. The Department subsequently
filed a petition to terminate Mother and Father's
parental rights. During the case, the Department created a
service plan for Father, which required, among other things,
that he: (1) engage in and complete services relating to
domestic violence, substance abuse, and parenting; (2) obtain
a psychiatric and psychological assessment; and (3) maintain
stable employment and housing. The trial court ordered Father
to comply with each requirement set out in the plan. The
court held the statutorily required status and permanency
hearings, and ultimately, the matter moved to a final
hearing, during which the Department sought to terminate
Father's parental rights.
hearing, the trial court heard testimony from Jennifer
DeLong, the only Department caseworker involved in the case,
and C.B., the children's maternal aunt. At the conclusion
of the hearing, the trial court terminated Father's
rights, finding he constructively abandoned the children and
failed to comply with the provisions of a court order that
specifically established the actions necessary for him to
obtain the return of his children. See Tex. Fam. Code
Ann. § 161.001(b)(1)(N), (O) (West Supp. 2016). The
trial court further found termination of Father's
parental rights would be in the children's best
interests. See id. § 161.001(b)(2).
Accordingly, the trial court rendered an order terminating
Father's parental rights. Thereafter, he perfected this
appeal, Father 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)(N), (O). Rather, he merely
challenges the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence
in support of the trial court's finding that termination
was in the best interests of the children. See id.
parent's right to his 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 his child. Id. § 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 his
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). In sum, an
appellate court must determine whether the evidence is such
that the trier of fact could reasonably form a firm belief or
conviction that determination was in the child's best
interest. In re J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d 256, 263 (Tex.
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. J.P.B., 180 S.W.3d at 573. Even when such
issues are found in the appellate record, we must defer to
the fact finder's reasonable resolutions. Id.
Interests - Substantive Law
best interest analysis, we apply the non-exhaustive
Holley factors. See Holley v. Adams, 544
S.W.2d 367, 371-72 (Tex. 1976). We recognize there 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 ...