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In re R.K.R.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Seventh District, Amarillo

June 20, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF R.K.R., A CHILD

          On Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 1 Randall County, Texas Trial Court No. 70, 180-L1, Honorable Jack M. Graham, Presiding

          Before QUINN, C.J., and CAMPBELL and PARKER, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          James T. Campbell Justice

         The mother of R.K.R. appeals the trial court's order terminating her parental rights.[1]We will affirm the order of the trial court.

         Background

         At the time of the final hearing in late 2017, the mother was 38 years old; R.K.R. was eighteen months old.[2] The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services became involved when R.K.R. tested positive for methamphetamine at the time of his birth, indicating the mother's use of the drug during pregnancy. The Department filed pleadings that included a petition against the mother seeking removal of R.K.R. The petition alleged several grounds and requested the infant's emergency removal. The court granted that relief and named the Department temporary sole managing conservator. R.K.R. was removed from the mother's care at the hospital. He was placed in a foster home with several of his cousins. He remained there at the time of the final hearing.

         At the final hearing, the court heard evidence of the mother's twenty-year history of drug abuse and her struggle to maintain mental health. After hearing the evidence, the court took the matter under advisement. A final written order was subsequently signed, reflecting that the trial court terminated the mother's parental rights based on a finding that clear and convincing evidence showed the mother violated sections D, E, O and P of section 161.001(b)(1) of the Texas Family Code. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b)(1)(D), (E), (O), (P) (West 2018). The court also found that clear and convincing evidence demonstrated that termination was in the child's best interest. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b)(2).

         Appealing the order, the mother challenges the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence supporting the predicate grounds on which the court terminated her rights. She also challenges the trial court's finding regarding the best interest of R.K.R. and the appointment of the Department as the child's permanent managing conservator.

         Analysis

         Standard of Review in Termination Cases

         The Constitution protects "[t]he fundamental liberty interest of natural parents in the care, custody, and management" of their children. Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745, 753, 102 S.Ct. 1388, 71 L.Ed.2d 599 (1982); Holick v. Smith, 685 S.W.2d 18, 20 (Tex. 1985). Parental rights, however, are not absolute, and courts have recognized it is essential that the emotional and physical interests of a child not be sacrificed merely to preserve the parental rights. In re C.H., 89 S.W.3d 17, 26 (Tex. 2002). The Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution and section 161.001 of the Texas Family Code require application of the heightened standard of clear and convincing evidence in cases involving involuntary termination of parental rights. In re E. N.C., 384 S.W.3d 796, 802 (Tex. 2012); In re J.F. C, 96 S.W.3d 256, 263 (Tex. 2002). Clear and convincing evidence is that measure or degree of proof which 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. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 101.007 (West 2017); In re C.H., 89 S.W.3d at 25-26.

         The Family Code permits a trial court to terminate parental rights if the Department proves by clear and convincing evidence that the parent committed an action prohibited under section 161.001 (b)(1) and termination is in the child's best interest. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b)(2); Holley v. Adams, 544 S.W.2d 367, 370 (Tex. 1976). Only one predicate finding under section 161.001(b)(1) is necessary to support an order of termination when there is also a finding that termination is in a child's best interests. In re A.V., 113 S.W.3d 355, 362 (Tex. 2003); In re T.N., 180 S.W.3d 376, 384 (Tex. App.- Amarillo 2005, no pet). Thus, a termination order may be affirmed if it is supported by legally and factually sufficient evidence of any statutory ground on which the trial court relied for termination, and the best interest finding. In re E.A.G., 373 S.W.3d 129, 141 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2012, pet. denied).

         The mother's appellate issues challenge the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence supporting the court's termination order. Under the legal sufficiency analysis, we examine all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the challenged finding, assuming the "factfinder resolved disputed facts in favor of its finding if a reasonable factfinder could do so." In re J.F. C, 96 S.W.3d at 266. We disregard all contrary evidence the factfinder could have reasonably disbelieved or found incredible. Id. But, we take into account undisputed facts that do not support the finding, so as not to "skew the analysis of whether there is clear and convincing evidence." Id. If the record presents credibility issues, we must defer to the factfinder's determinations provided they are not unreasonable. In re J.P.B., 180 S.W.3d 570, 573 (Tex. 2005).

         In a factual sufficiency review, a court of appeals must give due consideration to the evidence the factfinder could reasonably have found to be clear and convincing. In re C.H., 89 S.W.3d at 25. We determine whether the evidence is such that a factfinder could reasonably form a firm belief or conviction about the truth of the Department's allegations. Id. In doing so we consider whether disputed evidence is such that a reasonable factfinder could not have resolved that disputed evidence in favor of its finding. Id. If, 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, then the evidence is factually insufficient. In re J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d at 266.

          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). But prompt and permanent placement of a child in a safe environment is also presumed to be in the child's best interest. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 263.307(a). The best interest analysis evaluates the best interest of the child, not that of the parent. In re A.C.B.,198 S.W.3d 294, 298 (Tex. App.-Amarillo 2006, no pet.). The following factors are among those the court may consider in determining the best interest of the child: (A) the desires of the child; (B) the emotional and physical needs of the child now and in the future; (C) the emotional and physical danger to the child now and in the future; (D) the parental abilities of the individuals seeking custody; (E) the programs available to assist these individuals to promote the best interests of the child; (F) the plans for the child by these individuals or by the agency seeking custody; (G) the stability of the home or proposed placement; (H) the acts or omissions of the parent which may indicate that the existing parent-child relationship is not a proper one; and (I) any excuse for the acts or omissions of the parent. Holley, 544 S.W.2d at 371-72. The ...


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