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In re E.M.M.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

May 23, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF E.M.M., a Child

          From the 407th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2016PA01731 Honorable Richard Garcia, Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice, Karen Angelini, Justice, Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice

         Joshua[1] appeals the trial court's termination of his parental rights to his child, E.M.M. (born in 2014). He argues there is legally and factually insufficient evidence that termination of his parental rights is in E.M.M.'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 E.M.M. and to terminate the parental rights of Joshua and E.M.M.'s mother, Lauren. The Department obtained temporary conservatorship of the child based on allegations of neglectful supervision by Lauren. The Department's affidavit in support of removal stated Lauren was using methamphetamines and marijuana. The trial court ordered Lauren to complete services on a family service plan, which she did. Lauren addressed all of the Department's concerns and the child was returned to Lauren.

         However, the case proceeded to a bench trial regarding Joshua's parental rights. At trial, several witnesses testified, including Department caseworker Delia Longoria, Lauren, and Joshua. Generally, the witnesses' testimony showed Joshua had been incarcerated, had a criminal history, maintained little contact with E.M.M., and failed to support E.M.M.

         After trial, the trial court signed a judgment terminating Joshua's parental rights to the child. The trial court found Joshua had constructively abandoned the child and failed to comply with court-ordered provisions of his family service plan. The trial court also found that termination of Joshua's parental rights is in E.M.M.'s best interest. Joshua timely appealed and argues only that there is legally and factually insufficient evidence that termination of his parental rights is in E.M.M.'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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