In re A.R., 070920 TXCA6, 06-20-00013-CV
|Opinion Judge:||JOSH R. MORRISS, III CHIEF JUSTICE|
|Party Name:||IN THE INTEREST OF A.R., A CHILD|
|Judge Panel:||Before Morriss, C.J., Burgess and Stevens, JJ.|
|Case Date:||July 09, 2020|
|Court:||Court of Appeals of Texas|
Date Submitted: July 2, 2020
On Appeal from the County Court at Law Bowie County, Texas Trial Court No. 19C0682-CCL
Before Morriss, C.J., Burgess and Stevens, JJ.
JOSH R. MORRISS, III CHIEF JUSTICE
Following the birth of A.R. on March 14, 2019, the Department of Family and Protective Services (Department) received a report that A.R. had been neglectfully supervised. At birth, A.R. tested positive for marihuana, amphetamine, and methadone. The Department thereafter filed a petition for protection of a child, for conservatorship, and for termination of Mother's parental rights to A.R.1 The trial court granted the petition, finding that Mother knowingly placed or allowed A.R. to remain in conditions or surroundings that endangered her physical or emotional well-being, engaged in conduct or knowingly placed A.R. with persons who engaged in conduct that endangered A.R.'s physical or emotional well-being, failed to comply with the provisions of a court order that specifically established the actions necessary for her to obtain A.R.'s return, as described in Section 161.001(b)(1)(O), and used a controlled substance in a manner that endangered the health or safety of A.R. as described in Section 161.001(b)(1)(P) of the Texas Family Code. The trial court also found that termination was in A.R.'s best interests. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §161.001(b)(1)(D), (E), (O), (P), (b)(2) (Supp.).2
On appeal, Mother challenges the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence supporting each of the trial court's findings. We affirm the trial court's judgment because we conclude that (1) sufficient evidence supports termination under grounds D and E and (2) sufficient evidence supports the finding that termination was in A.R.'s best interests.
"The natural right existing between parents and their children is of constitutional dimensions." In re E.J.Z., 547 S.W.3d 339, 343 (Tex. App.-Texarkana 2018, no pet.) (quoting Holick v. Smith, 685 S.W.2d 18, 20 (Tex. 1985)). "Indeed, parents have a fundamental right to make decisions concerning 'the care, custody, and control of their children.'" Id. (quoting Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 65 (2000)). "Because the termination of parental rights implicates fundamental interests, a higher standard of proof-clear and convincing evidence-is required at trial." Id. (quoting In re A.B., 437 S.W.3d 498, 502 (Tex. 2014)). This Court is required to "engage in an exacting review of the entire record to determine if the evidence is . . . sufficient to support the termination of parental rights." Id. (quoting A.B., 437 S.W.3d at 500). "[I]nvoluntary termination statutes are strictly construed in favor of the parent." Id. (quoting In re S.K.A., 236 S.W.3d 875, 900 (Tex. App.-Texarkana 2007, pet. denied) (quoting Holick, 685 S.W.2d at 20)).
"In order to terminate parental rights, the trial court must find, by clear and convincing evidence, that the parent has engaged in at least one statutory ground for termination and that termination is in the child's best interest." Id. (citing Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001; In re E. N.C. , 384 S.W.3d 796, 798 (Tex. 2012)). "'Clear and convincing evidence' is that '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.'" Id. (quoting Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 101.007 (citing In re J.O.A., 283 S.W.3d 336, 344 (Tex. 2009)). "This standard of proof necessarily affects our review of the evidence." Id.
"In our legal sufficiency review, we consider all the evidence in the light most favorable to the findings to determine whether the fact-finder reasonably could have formed a firm belief or conviction that the grounds for termination were proven." In re L.E.S., 471 S.W.3d 915, 920 (Tex. App-Texarkana 2015, no pet.) (citing In re J.P.B., 180 S.W.3d 570, 573 (Tex. 2005) (per curiam); In re J.L.B., 349 S.W.3d 836, 846 (Tex. App-Texarkana 2011, no pet.)). "We assume the trial court, acting as fact-finder, resolved disputed facts in favor of the finding, if a reasonable fact-finder could do so, and disregarded evidence that the fact-finder could have reasonably disbelieved or the credibility of which reasonably could be doubted." Id. (citing J.P.B., 180 S.W.3d at 573).
"In our review of factual sufficiency, we give due consideration to evidence the trial court could have reasonably found to be clear and convincing." Id. (citing In re H.R.M., 209 S.W.3d 105, 109 (Tex. 2006) (per curiam)). "We consider only that evidence the fact-finder reasonably could have found to be clear and convincing and determine 'whether the evidence is such that a fact[-]finder could reasonably form a firm belief or conviction about the truth of the . . . allegations.'" Id. (quoting H.R.M., 209 S.W.3d at 109; In re C.H., 89 S.W.3d 17, 25 (Tex. 2002)) (citing In re J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d 256, 264, 266 (Tex. 2002)). "If, in light of the entire record, the disputed evidence that a reasonable fact-finder could not have credited in favor of the finding is so significant that a fact-finder could not reasonably have formed a firm belief or conviction, then the evidence is factually insufficient." Id. (quoting J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d at 266). In making this determination, we undertake "an exacting review of the entire record with a healthy regard for the constitutional interests at stake." Id. (quoting In re A.B., 437 S.W.3d 498, 503 (Tex. 2014) (quoting In re C.H., 89 S.W.3d 17, 26 (Tex. 2002)).
"Despite the profound constitutional interests at stake in a proceeding to terminate parental rights, 'the rights of natural parents are not absolute; protection of the child is paramount.'" Id. (quoting In re A.V., 113 S.W.3d 355, 361 (Tex. 2003); In re J.W.T., 872 S.W.2d 189, 195 (Tex. 1994)) (citing In re M.S., 115 S.W.3d 534, 547 (Tex. 2003)). "A child's emotional and physical interests must not be sacrificed merely to preserve parental rights." Id. (quoting In re C.A.J., 459 S.W.3d 175, 179 (Tex. App -Texarkana 2015, no pet.)).
"Only one predicate finding under Section 161.001[b](1) is necessary to support a judgment of termination when there is also a finding that termination is in the child's best interest." Id. at 923 (quoting In re O.R.F., 417 S.W.3d 24, 37 (Tex. App -Texarkana 2013, pet. denied); A.V., 113 S.W.3d at 362 (citing In re...
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