Court of Appeals of Texas, Seventh District, Amarillo
IN THE INTEREST OF L.E., Z.S.A.-F. AKA Z.A., AND K.A., CHILDREN
Appeal from the 242nd District Court Hale County, Texas,
Trial Court No. B41701-1708; Honorable Kregg Hukill,
PIRTLE, PARKER, and DOSS, JJ.
PATRICK A. PIRTLE JUSTICE.
the thirty-nine-year-old mother of eight-year-old L.E.,
six-year-old Z.S.A.-F., and five-year-old K.A., appeals from
the trial court's order terminating her parental rights
to her three children. She challenges the trial court's order
through five issues, three challenging the sufficiency of the
evidence to support the trial court's findings under the
predicate grounds, one challenging the sufficiency of the
evidence to support the trial court's finding that
termination was in the children's best interests, and one
arguing the trial court abused its discretion by refusing to
extend the dismissal date in this case. We affirm the order
of the trial court.
2017, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services
received a report concerning domestic violence between the
mother and her boyfriend. Both admitted to long-term domestic
violence and illicit drug use. At the time of the final
hearing, L.E. was placed in one foster home and Z.S.A.-F. and
K.A. were placed together in another.
receiving the report, the Department filed pleadings
including an original petition for protection of a child, for
conservatorship, and for termination in suit affecting the
parent-child relationship and obtained an order for
protection of a child in an emergency. A service plan that
included tasks the mother was required to perform to secure
the return of her children to her care was also put in place.
The mother completed some of the services and a monitored
return service plan was given to the mother in January 2019.
The monitored placement was disrupted when the mother tested
positive for cocaine about a month after the children were
returned to her care. The mother denied use but did not
appear for a test in March 2019. A week later, the mother
tested positive for alcohol. The children were removed and
the next day, the mother was arrested for an alleged assault
that took place in public while she was intoxicated. The
Department requested additional services for the mother, but
the mother failed to attend the required drug and alcohol
assessment and only attended one counseling session.
hearing was held in August 2019, just days before the
statutory deadline was to expire. At the outset of the
hearing, counsel for the mother asked the court for a
continuance to allow the mother to complete the SAFP program
that was part of the Department plan as well as the terms of
the community supervision imposed by another court. The trial
court denied that request. At the final hearing, the
Department presented three witnesses to provide evidence to
support its alleged grounds for termination of the
mother's parental rights. Most significant of that
evidence was evidence of the mother's drug and alcohol
hearing the evidence presented and the arguments of counsel,
the trial court found clear and convincing evidence supported
termination of the mother's parental rights to her three
children under Family Code section 161.001(b)(1) (D), (E),
and (O). See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §
161.001(b)(1)(D), (E), (O) (West Supp. 2019). It also found
clear and convincing evidence to support a finding that
termination was in the children's best interests. Tex.
Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b)(2).
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) and termination of that relationship is in the
child's best interest. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann.
§ 161.001(b)(1), (2). See also Holley v. Adams,
544 S.W.2d 367, 370 (Tex. 1976). The burden of proof is by
clear and convincing evidence. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §
161.206(a-1) (West Supp. 2019). "'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." Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §
101.007 (West 2019).
one statutory ground is needed to support termination. In
re K.C.B., 280 S.W.3d 888, 894-95 (Tex. App.-Amarillo
2009, pet. denied). Notwithstanding this point, the Texas
Supreme Court has recently instructed appellate courts that
due process requires a heightened standard of review under
section 161.001(b)(1)(D) or (E), even when another ground for
termination is sufficient, because of the potential
collateral consequences to an appellant's parental rights
concerning another child. See In re N.G., 577 S.W.3d
230, 237 (Tex. 2019) (per curiam). The Court held that
because section 161.001(b)(1)(M) provides for the termination
of parental rights if there is clear and convincing evidence
that the parent has had his or her parental rights terminated
with respect to another child based on a finding that his or
her conduct violated subsection (D) or (E), an appellate
court denies an appellant a "meaningful appeal and
eliminates the parent's only chance for review of a
finding that will be binding as to parental rights to other
children" if that court does not review a termination
based upon either of those subsections. Id. at 235
(citing In re S.K.A., 236 S.W.3d 875, 890 (Tex.
App.-Texarkana 2007, pet. denied)).
in addition to a finding on the predicate grounds for
termination, the trial court must also find that termination
is in the children's best interests. Id. In
reviewing a termination proceeding, the standard for
sufficiency of evidence is that discussed in In re
K.M.L.,443 S.W.3d 101, 112-13 (Tex. 2014). In reviewing
a best interest finding, ...