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In re S.T.G.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

April 25, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF S.T.G. and A.D.W., Children

          From the 150th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2016-PA-02552 Honorable Martha Tanner, Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice Marialyn Barnard, Justice Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          LUZ ELENA D. CHAPA, JUSTICE

         AFFIRMED

         Tara[1] appeals the trial court's termination of her parental rights to her children, S.T.G. (born in 2012) and A.D.W. (born in 2015).[2] She argues there is legally and factually insufficient evidence that termination of her parental rights is in the children's best interest. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Background

         The Department of Family and Protective Services filed an original petition for conservatorship of the children and to terminate Tara's parental rights. The Department obtained temporary conservatorship of the children based on allegations of neglect. The Department's affidavit in support of removal stated S.T.G. was "observed at school and had a bad odor coming from him" and expressed concerns about the unsanitary conditions of the home. The children were removed and placed in foster care.

         The case proceeded to a bench trial at which several witnesses testified, including Tara, the children's father Teddy, the children's foster mother Tammy, Department caseworkers Abigail Gonzalez and Lesley Oxendine, and licensed professional counselors Allie Hennis and Brenda Martinez. Generally, the Department's evidence described the unsanitary home conditions in which the children lived; Tara's failure to support the children; S.T.G.'s physical and emotional needs; and the children's improvement while living in foster care.

         After trial, the trial court signed a judgment terminating Tara's parental rights to the children. The trial court found Tara had failed to support the children in accordance with her abilities for a period of one year and failed to comply with court-ordered provisions of her family service plan. The trial court also found that termination of Tara's parental rights is in the children's best interest. Tara timely appealed and argues only that there is legally and factually insufficient evidence that termination of her parental rights is in the children's best interest. Tara does not challenge the trial court's findings of grounds for termination.

         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. 2017). 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 credibility determinations. 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. 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.

         Best Interest

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


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