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In re E.J.C.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

October 23, 2019

IN THE INTEREST OF E.J.C., S.R.C., and E.D.C., Children

          From the 73rd Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2018PA00862 Honorable Charles E. Montemayor, Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice Liza A. Rodriguez, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice

         Dad appeals the trial court's order terminating his parental rights to his children E.J.C., S.R.C., and E.D.C.[i] Dad asserts the evidence was legally and factually insufficient to support the trial court's best-interests-of-the-children findings. We affirm the trial court's order.

         Background

         On October 16, 2017, the Department of Family and Protective Services received a report alleging neglectful supervision and physical abuse of the children. The Department investigated and found the home was dirty, smelled of animal waste, and had no electricity or water service.

         The children were removed and Dad was placed on a service plan. Dad did not complete his ordered services. After a two-day bench trial, the trial court found by clear and convincing evidence that Dad's course of conduct met Family Code section 161.001(b)(1)'s grounds (D), (O), and (P), and terminating Dad's parental rights was in the children's best interests. Dad appeals.

         Evidence Required, Standards of Review

         The evidentiary standards[1] the Department must meet and the statutory grounds[2] the trial court must find to terminate a parent's rights to a child are well known, as are the legal[3] and factual[4]sufficiency standards of review. We apply them here.

         Bases for Terminating Dad's Parental Rights

         A. Dad's Course of Parental Conduct

         Dad does not challenge the trial court's findings that Dad's course of conduct met statutory grounds (D), [ii] (O), and (P). See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b)(1)(D), (O), (P).

         B. Best Interests of the Children

         Dad challenges the sufficiency of the evidence for the trial court's finding that terminating his parental rights is in his children's best interests. See id. § 161.001(b)(2). The Family Code statutory factors[5] and the Holley factors[6] for best interests of the children are well known. Applying each standard of review and the applicable statutory and common law factors, we examine the evidence pertaining to the best interests of the children.

         C. Witnesses at Trial

         In a two-day bench trial, the trial court heard testimony from Alicia Limon, the Department case worker, and Dad. The trial court also heard from the children's attorney ad litem. The trial court was the "sole judge[] of the credibility of the witnesses and the weight to give their testimony." See City of Keller v. Wilson, 168 S.W.3d 802, 819 (Tex. 2005); cf. In re H.R.M., 209 S.W.3d 105, 108 (Tex. 2006) (per curiam). The trial court heard the following testimony.

         D. Evidence of Best Interests of the Children

         The Department removed the children from the home because of the condition of the home and because of illegal drug use by Dad and his sister who lived in the home. Mom was not living in the home. The home was dirty, reeked of animal waste, and had no water or electricity service.

         Dad sometimes had his then-girlfriend Kelly watch the children. Dad's arguments with Kelly sometimes "got physical" in front of the children. Dad knows Kelly suffers from mental health issues, and after he learned Kelly was using illegal drugs, he continued to leave the children in her care. Dad knew that leaving the children in Kelly's care endangered the children's physical and emotional well-being, but he and Kelly "were planning on calling it quits anyway." See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 263.307(b)(1), (7), (8), (10), (11), (12); Holley v. Adams, 544 S.W.2d 367, 372 (Tex. 1976) (factors (B), (C), (D), (H)).

         The oldest child is seventeen years old and is currently placed with the middle child in the same foster-only placement. The oldest child has repeatedly stated a desire to remain in the same placement with the middle child-who is six years younger-even after the oldest child turns eighteen years old. See Holley, 544 S.W.2d at 372 (factor (A)).

         E. Dad's ...


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