Court of Appeals of Texas, Seventh District, Amarillo
IN THE INTEREST OF C.R., A.R., AND I.R., CHILDREN
Appeal from County Court at Law Number 1 Randall County,
Texas Trial Court No. 6985-L1; Honorable Jack M. Graham,
QUINN, C.J., and CAMPBELL and PIRTLE, JJ.
PATRICK A. PIRTLE, JUSTICE
E.R. and R.R., appeal the trial court's order terminating
their parental rights to their children, C.R., A.R., and
The children's mother, E.R., presents three issues
questioning the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence
to support the two statutory grounds for termination as well
as the trial court's best interest finding. By separate
brief, the children's father, R.R., presents two issues
challenging the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence
to support termination under the two statutory
grounds. We affirm.
parents and their children have been involved with the Texas
Department of Family and Protective Services since 2007. In
2010, the parents and the Department entered into an
Agreed Final Order in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child
Relationship involving C.R. The children's ages
range from ten to fourteen with C.R. being the oldest of the
three. C.R. has long-term special needs. He takes
psychotropic medications that require monitoring and has
anger and behavioral issues. A.R. also has anger issues and
impulsiveness that is controlled with medication, and I.R.
has dyslexia and psychiatric issues.
2017, the family was involved in a family-based service case
in which the court ordered them to participate in various
services. Months later, in September, an allegation that I.R.
went to school hungry and wearing a coat with urine on it
resulted in an intake report. Those allegations, coupled with
the Department's concern that the parents were abusing
drugs, resulted in removal of the children. The family-based
service plan developed in two separate cases: one case to
modify the prior 2010 order involving C.R., which included
the possibility of termination of parental rights and a
second case which was initiated as a pleading in intervention
regarding the two younger children, by which the Department
also sought termination as an alternative.
trial court appointed the Department as temporary managing
conservator of all three children in October 2017. The trial
court's temporary orders included a paragraph notifying
each parent of certain actions required of them in order to
obtain the return of their children and admonished them that
full compliance was required. In May 2018, the Department
determined that reunification goals were unsuccessful and
proceeded with termination of parental rights. The
Department's supervisor explained that once the goal
shifted from reunification to termination, the Department
focused on participation by the parents in their services and
other circumstances as a condition precedent to again
time of the final hearing in November 2018, the children were
placed as follows: C.R. was placed in a residential treatment
center in Houston, A.R. in a group home in Dallas,
I.R. with a foster family in Dallas. Of the several caseworkers
the family had throughout the proceedings, none testified at
the final hearing. Instead, the sole witness for the
Department was one of its supervisors. E.R. and R.R.
testified on their own behalf. At the conclusion of the
testimony, the attorney ad litem for the children recommended
termination of parental rights and the trial court took the
case under advisement.
the trial court signed an order terminating E.R. and
R.R.'s parental rights for constructively abandoning
their children, who had been in the Department's care for
not less than six months, after the Department had made
reasonable efforts to return the children, the parents had
not regularly visited or maintained significant contact with
the children, and they had not demonstrated the ability to
provide a safe environment. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §
161.001(b)(1)(N) (West Supp. 2018). The trial court also
found that both parents had failed to comply with the
provisions of a court order that specifically established the
actions necessary for them to obtain the return of their
children who had been in the Department's care for not
less than nine months as a result of the children's
removal for abuse or neglect. § 161.001(b)(1)(O) (West
Supp. 2018). The trial court further found that termination
of parental rights was in the children's best interests.
§ 161.001(b)(2) (West Supp. 2018). The court then
ordered termination of the parental rights of both parents.
Both parents seek to overturn that termination order.
Texas Family Code permits a court to terminate the
relationship between a parent and a child if the Department
establishes one or more acts or omissions enumerated under
section 161.001(b)(1) of the Code and that termination of
that relationship is in the best interest of the child.
See § 161.001(b)(1), (2); Holley v.
Adams, 544 S.W.2d 367, 370 (Tex. 1976). The burden of
proof is by clear and convincing evidence. § 161.206(a)
(West 2014). "'Clear and convincing evidence'
means the measure or degree of 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."
§ 101.007 (West 2014).
natural right existing between parents and their children is
of constitutional magnitude. See Santosky v. Kramer,
455 U.S. 745, 758-59, 102 S.Ct. 1388, 71 L.Ed.2d 599 (1982).
See also Holick v. Smith, 685 S.W.2d 18, 20 (Tex.
1985). Consequently, termination proceedings are strictly
construed in favor of the parent. In the Interest of
E.R., 385 S.W.3d 552, 563 (Tex. 2012). Parental rights,
however, are not absolute, and it is essential that the
emotional and physical interests of a child not be sacrificed
merely to preserve those rights. In the Interest of
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. See
In the Interest of E. N.C. , 384 S.W.3d 796, 802 (Tex.
2012); In the Interest of J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d 256, 263
legal sufficiency challenge, we credit evidence that supports
the verdict if reasonable jurors could have done so and
disregard contrary evidence unless reasonable jurors could
not have done so. In re K.M.L., 443 S.W.3d 101,
112-13 (Tex. 2014). However, the reviewing court should not
disregard undisputed facts that do not support the verdict to
determine whether there is clear and convincing evidence.
Id. at 113. In cases requiring clear and convincing
evidence, even evidence that does more than raise surmise and
suspicion will not suffice unless that evidence is capable of
producing a firm belief or conviction that the allegation is
true. Id. If, after conducting a legal sufficiency
review, a court determines that no reasonable fact finder
could form a firm belief or conviction that the matter that
must be proven is true, then the evidence is legally
insufficient. Id. (citing In the Interest of
J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d at 266).
factual sufficiency review, a court of appeals must give due
consideration to evidence that the fact finder could
reasonably have found to be clear and convincing. In the
Interest of J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d at 266 (citing In the
Interest of C.H., 89 S.W.3d at 25). We must determine
whether the evidence is such that a fact finder could
reasonably form a firm belief or conviction about the truth
of the Department's allegations. In the Interest of
J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d at 266. We consider whether disputed
evidence is such that a reasonable fact finder could not have
resolved that disputed evidence in favor of its finding. If,
in light of the entire record, the disputed evidence that a
reasonable fact finder could not have credited in favor of
the finding is so significant that a fact finder could not
reasonably have formed a firm belief or conviction, then the
evidence is factually insufficient. Id.
clear and convincing standard does not mean that the evidence
must negate all reasonable doubt or that the evidence must be
uncontroverted. In the Interest of T.N., 180 S.W.3d
376, 382 (Tex. App.-Amarillo 2005, no pet.). The reviewing
court must recall that the trier of fact has the authority to
weigh the evidence, draw reasonable inferences therefrom, and
choose between conflicting inferences. Id. Also, the
trier of fact, as opposed to the reviewing body, enjoys the
right to resolve credibility issues and conflicts within the
evidence. Id. It may freely choose to believe all,
part, or none of the testimony espoused by any particular
witness. Id. at 382-83 (citing In the Interest
of R.D.S., 902 S.W.2d 714, 716 (Tex. App.-Amarillo 1995,
termination order will be upheld if the evidence is
sufficient on any statutory ground relied on by the trial
court. In the Interest of K.C.B., 280 S.W.3d 888,
894 (Tex. App.-Amarillo 2009, pet. denied). Although evidence
presented may be relevant to both the statutory grounds for
termination and best interest finding, each element must be
established separately and proof of one element does not
relieve the burden of proving the other. See In the
Interest of C.H., 89 S.W.3d at 28.
rights may be terminated under subparagraph N if the trial
court finds that (1) a parent has constructively abandoned a
child who has been in the permanent or temporary
conservatorship of the Department for not less than six
months, (2) reasonable efforts have been made to return the
child, (3) the parent has not regularly visited or maintained
significant contact with the child, and (4) the parent has
demonstrated an inability to provide the child with a safe
environment. See In re A.S., 261 S.W.3d 76, 88-89
(Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2008, pet. denied). If there
is insufficient evidence of any of the four elements,
termination under subparagraph N fails. In re D.T.,
34 S.W.3d 625, 633 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2000, pet. denied).
issue one of their respective briefs, E.R. and R.R. challenge
the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence to support
termination under subparagraph N. The Department, however,
offers no argument in response on this ground and relies
solely on subparagraph O as the statutory ground supporting
termination. Because only one statutory ground is required to
support termination, we will evaluate the parties'
arguments presented in issue two of their respective briefs
pertaining to the legal and factual sufficiency of the
evidence to support termination under subparagraph O. In