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In re M.G.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Eleventh District

June 11, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF M.G., A CHILD

          On Appeal from the 220th District Court Comanche County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. FM00218

          Panel consists of: Bailey, C.J., Stretcher, J., and Wright, S.C.J. [2]

          OPINION

          KEITH STRETCHER JUSTICE.

         This is an appeal from an order in which the trial court terminated the parental rights of M.G.'s mother and father. Both of the parents filed an appeal. On appeal, the mother presents one issue for review, and the father presents three. We modify and affirm.

         Issues Presented

         The mother asserts in her sole issue that the evidence is legally and factually insufficient to support the trial court's finding that termination of the mother's parental rights was in M.G.'s best interest. In the father's first and second issues, he challenges the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence in support of the trial court's findings. In his third issue, the father asserts that the trial court abused its discretion when it denied the father's request for an extension.

         Termination Findings and Standards

         The termination of parental rights must be supported by clear and convincing evidence. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b) (West Supp. 2018). To terminate parental rights, it must be shown by clear and convincing evidence that the parent has committed one of the acts listed in Section 161.001(b)(1)(A)-(U) and that termination is in the best interest of the child. Id.

         In this case, the trial court found that the mother had committed five of the acts listed in Section 161.001(b)(1)-those found in subsections (D), (E), (N), (O), and (P)-and that the father had committed four of those acts-those found in subsections (D), (E), (N), and (O). Specifically, the trial court found that the parents had knowingly placed or knowingly allowed the child to remain in conditions or surroundings that endangered the child's physical or emotional well-being; that the parents had engaged in conduct or knowingly placed the child with persons who engaged in conduct that endangered the child's physical or emotional well-being; that the parents had constructively abandoned the child; that the parents had failed to comply with the provisions of a court order that specifically established the actions necessary for the parents to obtain the return of their child, who had been in the managing conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services for not less than nine months as a result of the child's removal from the parents for abuse or neglect; and that the mother had used a controlled substance in a manner that endangered the child and either failed to complete a substance abuse treatment program or abused the drugs after completing such a program. The trial court also found, pursuant to Section 161.001(b)(2), that termination of both parents' parental rights would be in the best interest of the child.

         To determine if the evidence is legally sufficient in a parental termination case, we review all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the finding and determine whether a rational trier of fact could have formed a firm belief or conviction that its finding was true. In re J.P.B., 180 S.W.3d 570, 573 (Tex. 2005). To determine if the evidence is factually sufficient, we give due deference to the finding and determine whether, on the entire record, a factfinder could reasonably form a firm belief or conviction about the truth of the allegations against the parent. In re C.H., 89 S.W.3d 17, 25-26 (Tex. 2002).

         With respect to the best interest of a child, no unique set of factors need be proved. In re C.J.O., 325 S.W.3d 261, 266 (Tex. App.-Eastland 2010, pet. denied). But courts may use the non-exhaustive Holley factors to shape their analysis. Holley v. Adams, 544 S.W.2d 367, 371-72 (Tex. 1976). These include, but are not limited to, (1) the desires of the child, (2) the emotional and physical needs of the child now and in the future, (3) the emotional and physical danger to the child now and in the future, (4) the parental abilities of the individuals seeking custody, (5) the programs available to assist these individuals to promote the best interest of the child, (6) the plans for the child by these individuals or by the agency seeking custody, (7) the stability of the home or proposed placement, (8) the acts or omissions of the parent that may indicate that the existing parent-child relationship is not a proper one, and (9) any excuse for the acts or omissions of the parent. Id. Additionally, evidence that proves one or more statutory grounds for termination may also constitute evidence illustrating that termination is in the child's best interest. C.J.O., 325 S.W.3d at 266.

         Background

         The record shows that M.G. was ten years old at the time of the final hearing. The Department had removed M.G. from her mother's care due to the condition of the home, M.G. not regularly attending school, and the mother's drug use. While this case was pending, the mother tested positive for methamphetamine and also refused numerous drug tests. She failed to complete various services that were required of her: counseling, parenting, MHMR, AA/NA, and drug testing. The mother did not regularly visit M.G. during the three or four months preceding the final hearing. Despite the Department's efforts, the mother showed no interest in providing a safe and stable environment for M.G., and the mother continued to use methamphetamine. The home in which the mother lived, which was owned by the father, was inappropriate due to the lack of any electricity and to "dog feces all in the home, cats living on dressers, food, trash everywhere." Additionally, the mother did not provide the Department with any proof that she was employed while this case was pending.

         At the time of removal, the father was incarcerated for "possession charges." The Department sent parenting packets to the father while he was incarcerated. The father did not complete those packets and return them to the Department. The Department also sent several letters to the father; however, the Department received no responses from him. Additionally, the father's court-appointed attorney had had no contact with the father-despite the attorney's efforts to contact the father. The father was released from incarceration two or three months prior to the final hearing. He did not attempt to work any of the required services or visit M.G. after he was ...


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