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In re A.J.R.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

May 9, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF A.J.R., a Child

          From the 407th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2017-PA-00428 Honorable Richard Garcia, Judge Presiding

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

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          LUZ ELENA D. CHAPA, JUSTICE

         Jesse[1] appeals the trial court's termination of his parental rights to his child, A.J.R. (born in 2012). He argues there is legally and factually insufficient evidence that termination of his parental rights is in A.J.R.'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 A.J.R. and to terminate Jesse's parental rights to A.J.R. The Department also sought to terminate the rights of A.J.R.'s mother, Aurora. The Department obtained temporary conservatorship of A.J.R. based on allegations of neglect. The Department's affidavit in support of removal stated Aurora and Jesse were using heroin, Jesse was using "ice, " and there was physical violence between Jesse and Aurora in front of A.J.R.

         The case proceeded to a bench trial at which Department caseworker Lesley Oxendine was the sole witness. Oxendine testified Aurora had addressed the Department's concerns, completed her family service plan, remained in counseling, and avoided her "trigger, " which was being involved with someone who was going to be "violent with her and put her back into [a] drug use environment." Oxendine recommended that Aurora be appointed A.J.R.'s managing conservator; however, she recommended that the trial court terminate Jesse's parental rights, opining that termination of Jesse's parental rights is in A.J.R.'s best interest. Oxendine testified Jesse used "ice, " was incarcerated, did not complete his family service plan, failed to support A.J.R. during the case, and had only four visits with A.J.R. during the case.

         The trial court signed a judgment appointing Aurora as A.J.R.'s sole managing conservator and terminating Jesse's parental rights to A.J.R. The trial court found Jesse had constructively abandoned A.J.R.; failed to support A.J.R. in accordance with his ability for one year; failed to comply with court-ordered provisions of his family service plan; and knowingly endangered A.J.R. based on his drug use and either continued to use drugs or failed to complete a substance abuse treatment program. The trial court also found that termination of Jesse's parental rights is in A.J.R.'s best interest. Jesse timely appealed. He argues only that there is legally and factually insufficient evidence that termination of his parental rights is in A.J.R.'s best interest.

         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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