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In re A. N.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

July 24, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF A. N., ET AL., CHILDREN

          From the 38th Judicial District Court, Medina County, Texas Trial Court No. 18-01-24656-CV Honorable Cathy O. Morris, Judge Presiding [1]

          Sitting: Rebeca C. Martinez, Justice Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice Irene Rios, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          IRENE RIOS, JUSTICE.

         Following a bench trial, Father's parental rights were terminated as to his three children, Jessie, Jason, and Joey.[2] The trial court then appointed the children's maternal great-grandmother as managing conservator and Mother as possessory conservator. The only issue presented by Father on appeal is whether the evidence is legally and factually sufficient to support the trial court's finding that termination was in the children's best interest. We affirm the trial court's order.

         Background

         On January 22, 2018, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services ("Department") filed a petition to terminate parental rights. A bench trial was held before an associate judge on November 20, 2018, following which the associate judge signed an order terminating Father's parental rights to Jessie, Jason, and Joey. Thereafter, Father requested a de novo hearing, which was held on January 15, 2019. At the de novo hearing, the trial court took judicial notice of the reporter's record and exhibits from the initial hearing.[3] The trial court also heard additional testimony. On March 6, 2019, the trial court signed a Final De Novo Order of Termination of Parental Rights terminating Father's parental rights to Jessie, Jason, and Joey.

         Standard of Review and Statutory Requirements

         To terminate parental rights pursuant to section 161.001 of the Texas Family Code, the Department has the burden to prove by clear and convincing evidence: (1) one of the predicate grounds in subsection 161.001(b)(1); and (2) that termination is in the best interest of the child. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §§ 161.001, 161.206(a); In re A.V., 113 S.W.3d 355, 362 (Tex. 2003). In this case, the trial court found evidence of three predicate grounds to terminate Father's parental rights.[4] The trial court also found termination of Father's parental rights was in the best interest of the children.

         When reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence, we apply the well-established standards of review. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §§ 101.007, 161.206(a); In re H.R.M., 209 S.W.3d 105, 108 (Tex. 2006) (factual sufficiency); In re J.P.B., 180 S.W.3d 570, 573 (Tex. 2005) (legal sufficiency).

         Best Interests

         When considering the best interest of the child, we recognize the existence of a strong presumption that the child's best interest is served by preserving the parent-child relationship. In re R.R., 209 S.W.3d 112, 116 (Tex. 2006). However, we also presume that prompt and permanent placement of the child in a safe environment is in the child's best interest. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 263.307(a) (West 2014).

         In determining whether a child's parent is willing and able to provide the child with a safe environment, we consider the factors set forth in Family Code section 263.307(b). See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 263.307(b). We also apply the Holley factors to our analysis.[5] See Holley v. Adams, 544 S.W.2d 367, 371-72 (Tex. 1976). These factors are not exhaustive. In re C.H., 89 S.W.3d 17, 27 (Tex. 2002). "The absence of evidence about some of these considerations would not preclude a factfinder from reasonably forming a strong conviction or belief that termination is in the child's best interest, particularly if the evidence were undisputed that the parental relationship endangered the safety of the child." Id. In analyzing these factors, the court must focus on the best interest of the child, not the best interest of the parent. Dupree v. Tex. Dept. of Protective & Regulatory Servs., 907 S.W.2d 81, 86 (Tex. App.-Dallas 1995, no writ).

         Evidence that proves one or more statutory ground for termination may also constitute evidence illustrating that termination is in the child's best interest. In re C.H., 89 S.W.3d 17, 28 (Tex. 2002) (holding same evidence may be probative of both section 161.001(b)(1) grounds and best interest, but such evidence does not relieve the State of its burden to prove best interest). "A best interest analysis may consider circumstantial evidence, subjective factors, and the totality of the evidence as well as the direct evidence." See In re E.D., 419 S.W.3d 615, 620 (Tex. App.- San Antonio 2013, pet. denied). "A trier of fact ...


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