Court of Appeals of Texas, Seventh District, Amarillo
Appeal from the 223rd District Court Gray County, Texas,
Trial Court No. 39, 158; Honorable Jack M. Graham, Presiding
QUINN, C.J., and PIRTLE and PARKER, JJ.
Patrick A. Pirtle Justice.
B.P., appeals from the trial court's Order of
Termination severing her parental rights to her
daughter, Z.N.J. By a single issue, she challenges the
sufficiency of the evidence to support the trial court's
best interest finding. We affirm.
Z.N.J. was born in 2017, she tested positive for
methamphetamine and was removed from B.P. by the Texas
Department of Family and Protective Services. B.P. also
tested positive for controlled substances during her
pregnancy and at the time of Z.N.J.'s birth. The
Department notified B.P. that the child would need to be
placed with an appropriate family member. The child's
maternal grandmother had a history with the Department and
was ruled out as a placement. Instead, Z.N.J.'s paternal
grandmother was found to be an appropriate placement. Later
in the proceedings, Z.N.J. was placed with a paternal aunt
and uncle who expressed interest in adopting her.
conclusion of the final hearing, the trial court terminated
B.P.'s parental rights on the following statutory grounds
set forth in section 161.001(b)(1) of the Family Code: (D)
(knowingly placed or allowed the child to remain in
conditions or surroundings which endangered her well-being),
(E) (engaged in conduct or knowingly placed the child with
persons who engaged in conduct which endangered her
well-being), and (O) (failed to comply with a court order
that established the actions necessary for the parent to
obtain the return of the child following her removal under
chapter 262 of the Family Code). Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §
161.001(b)(1)(D), (E), & (O) (West Supp. 2018). The trial
court also found that termination of B.P.'s parental
rights was in her child's best interest. §
Texas Family Code permits a court to terminate the
parent-child relationship 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 child's best interest.
See § 161.001(b)(1), (2). See also In re
N.G., No. 18-0508, 2019 Tex. LEXIS 465, at *1 (Tex. May
17, 2019) (per curiam); Holley v. Adams, 544 S.W.2d
367, 370 (Tex. 1976). In parental termination cases, due
process mandates that the Department establish its case by
clear and convincing evidence. See In re N.G., 2019
Tex. LEXIS 465, at *7. See also § 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 re 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 re C.H., 89 S.W.3d 17, 26
(Tex. 2002). As previously stated, 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 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).
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 re 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 re
J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d at 266 (citing In re C.H., 89
S.W.3d at 25). In such a review, 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 re J.F.C., 96
S.W.3d at 266. In doing so, 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.