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In re C.C.M.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

May 8, 2019

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

          From the 285th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2017-PA-01431 Honorable Karen H. Pozza, Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice, Beth Watkins, Justice Liza A. Rodriguez, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice

         Father[1] appeals an order terminating the parent-child relationship between him and C.C.M. He argues the evidence is insufficient to support findings required for the order. We affirm the trial court's order.

         Procedural Background

         The Department filed suit for conservatorship of C.C.M. (born in 2010) and termination of Father's parental rights. C.C.M. was removed from Father's care based on concerns of physical abuse by Father's girlfriend, G.G. C.C.M. was placed with her paternal grandmother.

         The case proceeded to a bench trial, at which several witnesses testified. The case was tried together with a separate case involving Father's three younger daughters, C., M., and V.[2] One of the Department's primary concerns in this case was Father's ability to protect C.C.M. from abuse by G.G. After trial, the trial court rendered an order terminating Father's parental rights under section 161.001 of the Texas Family Code.[3] Father timely appealed.

         Standard of Review & Statutory Requirements

         To terminate parental rights under section 161.001 of the Texas Family Code, the Department must prove by clear and convincing evidence: (1) one of the grounds in subsection 161.001(b)(1); and (2) termination is in the best interest of the child. See Tex. Fam. Code §§ 161.001, 161.206(a); In re A.V., 113 S.W.3d 355, 362 (Tex. 2003). In this case, the trial court found, by clear and convincing evidence, four grounds in subsection 161.001(b)(1) and that termination of Father's parental rights is in C.C.M.'s best interest.

         Father argues the evidence is legally and factually insufficient to support these findings. We evaluate the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence to support the trial court's findings under the standard of review established by the Texas Supreme Court in In re J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d 256, 266-67 (Tex. 2002). Under this standard, "[t]he trial court is the sole judge of the weight and credibility of the evidence, including the testimony of the Department's witness[es]." In re F.M., No. 04-16-00516-CV, 2017 WL 393610, at *4 (Tex. App.-San Antonio Jan. 30, 2017, no pet.) (mem. op.).

         Grounds for Termination

         In his first four issues, Father challenges the trial court's four findings of grounds for termination. The trial court found Father failed to complete court-ordered provisions of his family service plan, failed to support C.C.M., knowingly endangered C.C.M. based on her conditions or surroundings, and knowingly endangered C.C.M. by engaging in conduct or placing her with persons who engaged in conduct endangering C.C.M.'s wellbeing. See Tex. Fam. Code § 161.001(b)(1)(D), (E), (F), (O). A finding of only one ground is necessary. See In re D.J.H., 381 S.W.3d 606, 611-12 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2012, no pet.).

         We begin by considering the trial court's finding regarding knowing endangerment by conduct, the Department's primary concern at trial. Section 161.001(b)(1)(E) provides a ground for a termination when a parent has "knowingly placed the child with persons who engaged in conduct which endangers the physical or emotional well-being of the child." See Tex. Fam. Code § 161.001(b)(1)(E). "Endanger" means to expose a child to loss or injury or jeopardize a child's emotional or physical well-being. See In re M.C., 917 S.W.2d 268, 269 (Tex. 1996) (per curiam).

         At trial, Father described his family's living situation as a "violence environment." He testified he had learned G.G. had bruised C.C.M.'s lip by hitting her in the face, and he called the police two days after he learned about the incident. Father also testified he was aware that, before this incident, G.G. had purposefully burned C.C.M.'s hand with an iron or curling iron, and he would leave C.C.M. in G.G.'s care while he was away at work. He testified the children were possibly in danger of being physically abused ...


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