Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio
the 131st Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial
Court No. 2018-PA-01252 Honorable Charles E. Montemayor,
Bryan Marion, Chief Justice Irene Rios, Justice Liza A.
Father appeals the trial court's order terminating his
parental rights to his daughter, Amy. The only issue presented by
Father is whether the evidence is legally and factually
sufficient to support the trial court's finding that
termination is in the child's best interest. We affirm
the trial court's order.
8, 2018, the Texas Department of Family and Protective
Services ("Department") filed a petition to
terminate parental rights. The Department became involved
with the family on May 11, 2018, when the Department received
a report that Amy and Mother tested positive for methadone
and heroin during Amy's delivery.
trial court held a bench trial on June 4, 2019, at which
Father appeared in person and testified on his own behalf.
The trial court also heard testimony from Department
caseworker Kim Fitzgerald. Additionally, the trial court took
judicial notice of the pleadings, service of process
documents, court orders, and family service plans contained
in the court's record. On June 4, 2019, the trial court signed
an order terminating Father's parental rights to Amy.
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 evidence of three predicate grounds to
terminate Father's parental rights. The trial court
also found termination of Father's parental rights was in
the best interest of the child.
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). Further, in a trial to the
bench, the trial court is the sole judge of the credibility
of witnesses and the weight to be given their testimony.
Health Tronics, Inc. v. Lisa Laser USA, Inc., 382
S.W.3d 567, 582 (Tex. App.-Austin 2012, no pet.). This is
because "the trial judge is best able to observe and
assess the witnesses' demeanor and credibility, and to
sense the 'forces, powers, and influences' that may
not be apparent from merely reading the record on
appeal." Coburn v. Moreland, 433 S.W.3d 809,
823 (Tex. App.-Austin 2014, no pet.) (quoting In re
A.L.E., 279 S.W.3d 424, 427 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th
Dist.] 2009, no pet.)). We therefore defer to the trial
court's judgment regarding credibility determinations.
Id. at 823-24.
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).
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. 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. Dep't of
Protective & Regulatory Servs., 907 S.W.2d 81, 86
(Tex. App.-Dallas 1995, no writ).
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