Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio
IN RE E.F.Z. and L.G.Z., Children
the 45th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial
Court No. 2017-PA-01600 Honorable Richard Garcia, Judge
Sitting: Rebeca C. Martinez, Justice, Patricia O. Alvarez,
Justice Beth Watkins, Justice
appeals the trial court's order terminating her parental
rights to E.F.Z. and L.G.Z. On appeal, H.H. challenges the
sufficiency of the evidence to support the trial court's
findings on the predicate statutory grounds for termination
and that termination is in the children's best interest.
We affirm the trial court's order.
20, 2017, the Texas Department of Family and Protective
Services filed a petition to terminate H.H.'s parental
rights to E.F.Z. and L.G.Z. On January 9, 2019, and February
5, 2019, a bench trial was held. At the time of the trial,
E.F.Z. was seven, and L.G.Z. was six.
conclusion of the bench trial, the trial court terminated
H.H.'s parental rights on five grounds. H.H. timely filed
of Review and Statutory Requirements
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 clear and convincing evidence of the
following five predicate grounds under subsection
161.001(b)(1) to terminate H.H.'s parental rights: (1)
voluntarily left the children alone in the possession of
another without providing adequate support of the children
and remained away for a period of at least six months; (2)
knowingly placed or knowingly allowed the children to remain
in conditions or surroundings which endangered the physical
or emotional well-being of the children; (3) engaged in
conduct or knowingly placed the children with persons who
engaged in conduct which endangered the children's
physical or emotional well-being; (4) failed to support the
children in accordance with H.H.'s ability during the
period of one year ending within six months of the date of
the filing of the petition; and (5) failed to comply with a
court-ordered service plan. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann.
§§ 161.001(b)(1)(C), (D), (E, ) (F), (O). The trial
court also found clear and convincing evidence that
terminating H.H.'s parental rights was in the
children's best interest.
evaluate the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence to
support the trial court's findings under the standards of
review established by the Texas Supreme Court in In re
J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d 256, 266-67 (Tex. 2002). Under these
standards, "[t]he trial court is the sole judge of the
weight and credibility of the evidence, including the
testimony of the Department's witnesses."
In re F.M., No. 04-16-00516-CV, 2017 WL
393610, at *4 (Tex. App.-San Antonio Jan. 30, 2017, no pet.)
termination under section 161.001(b)(1)(D) or (E) may have
implications for a parent's parental rights to other
children, appellate courts are mandated to address issues
raised on appeal challenging a trial court's findings
under those subsections. In re N.G., No. 18-0508,
2019 WL 2147263, at *4 (Tex. May 17, 2019). "[T]he
evidence concerning [those] two statutory grounds for
termination is interrelated." In re J.T.G., 121
S.W.3d 117, 126 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2003, no pet.).
Accordingly, we can consolidate our analysis of both grounds.
161.001(b)(1)(D) allows a trial court to terminate parental
rights if it finds by clear and convincing evidence that the
parent has "knowingly placed or knowingly allowed the
child to remain in conditions or surroundings which endanger
the physical or emotional well-being of the child." Tex.
Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b)(1)(D). Under subsection D,
the trial court examines "evidence related to the
environment of the children to determine if the environment
was the source of endangerment to the children's physical
or emotional well-being," although parental conduct can
be a factor that contributes to this environment. In re
J.T.G., 121 S.W.3d at 125. "'Environment'
refers to the acceptability of living conditions, as well as
a parent's conduct in the home." In re
S.R., 452 S.W.3d 351, 360 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th
Dist.] 2014, pet. denied). "A child is endangered when
the environment creates a potential for danger that the
parent is aware of but consciously disregards."
Id. "[A] parent need not know for certain that
the child is in an endangering environment; awareness of such
a potential is sufficient." In re R.S.-T., 522
S.W.3d 92, 109 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2017, no pet.)
(internal quotation omitted). Subsection D permits
termination based upon only a single act or omission.
161.001(b)(1)(E) allows a trial court to terminate a
parent's rights if the court finds by clear and
convincing evidence that the parent "engaged in conduct
or knowingly placed the child with persons who engaged in
conduct which endangers the physical or emotional well-being
of the child." Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §
161.001(b)(1)(E). Under subsection E, the trial court is
asked to determine whether there is evidence that a
parent's acts, omissions, or failures to act endangered
the child's physical or emotional well-being. See In
re J.T.G., 121 S.W.3d at 125. Under subsection E, our
analysis may not rest on a single act or omission; it ...