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In re T.W.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Tenth District

May 22, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF T.W. AND X.W., CHILDREN

          From the 85th District Court Brazos County, Texas Trial Court No. 17-002245-CV-85

          Before Chief Justice Gray, Justice Davis, and Justice Neill.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          REX D. DAVIS JUSTICE.

         After a bench trial, the trial court rendered a final order terminating the parental rights of Appellant R.W.[1] to his children, T.W. and X.W. V.A., the children's mother, executed an affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights prior to trial and does not appeal.

         Randy raises two issues on appeal: (1) the evidence is factually insufficient to support the best-interest finding, and (2) the trial court erred in failing to allow him to represent himself. We affirm the trial court's termination order.

         Standard of Review

         In parental termination cases, due process requires the application of the clear and convincing evidence standard of proof. In re J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d 256, 263 (Tex. 2002). Both legal and factual sufficiency reviews in termination cases require consideration of whether the evidence is such that a factfinder could reasonably form "a firm belief or conviction as to the truth of the allegations sought to be established." Id. at 264.

         In a factual sufficiency review, a court of appeals must give due consideration to evidence that the factfinder could reasonably have found to be clear and convincing. Id. at 266.

[T]he inquiry must be "whether the evidence is such that a factfinder could reasonably form a firm belief or conviction about the truth of the State's allegations." A court of appeals should consider whether disputed evidence is such that a reasonable factfinder 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 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.

Id. (footnotes and citations omitted); see also In re C.H., 89 S.W.3d 17, 25 (Tex. 2002).

         We give due deference to the factfinder's findings and must not substitute our judgment for that of the factfinder. In re H.R.M., 209 S.W.3d 105, 108 (Tex. 2006). The factfinder is the "sole arbiter when assessing the credibility and demeanor of witnesses." In re A.B., 437 S.W.3d 498, 503 (Tex. 2014). While the reviewing court must detail the evidence relevant to the issue of parental termination when reversing a finding based upon insufficient evidence, it need not do so when affirming a verdict of termination. Id.

         In a proceeding to terminate the parent-child relationship brought under Family Code § 161.001, the Department must establish by clear and convincing evidence two elements: (1) one or more acts or omissions enumerated under subsection (b)(1) of § 161.001, termed a predicate violation; and (2) that termination is in the best interest of the child. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b)(1), (2); Swate v. Swate, 72 S.W.3d 763, 766 (Tex. App.-Waco 2002, pet. denied). The factfinder must find that both elements are established by clear and convincing evidence, and proof of one element does not relieve the Department of the burden of proving the other. Holley v. Adams, 544 S.W.2d 367, 370 (Tex. 1976); Swate, 72 S.W.3d at 766. Randy does not challenge the trial court's findings regarding the predicate violation under § 161.001(b)(1)(O), but only the finding that termination is in the best interest of the children.

         Best Interest of the Children

         A strong presumption exists that maintaining the parent-child relationship is in a child's best interest. In re R.R., 209 S.W.3d 112, 116 (Tex. 2006); In re L.M., 104 S.W.3d 642, 647 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2003, no pet.). But, it is also presumed that the prompt and permanent placement of a child in a safe environment is in the child's best interest. See Tex. ...


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