Evidence for Legal Sufficiency in Parental Termination Cases in Texas
In reviewing the evidence for legal sufficiency in parental termination cases, we must determine whether the evidence is such that a factfinder could reasonably form a firm belief or conviction that the grounds for termination were proven. In re J.P.B., 180 S.W.3d 570, 573 (Tex. 2005).
We must review all the evidence in the light most favorable to the finding and judgment. Id. This means that we must assume that the factfinder resolved any disputed facts in favor of its finding if a reasonable factfinder could have done so. Id.
We must also disregard all evidence that a reasonable factfinder could have disbelieved. Id. We must consider, however, undisputed evidence even if it is contrary to the finding. Id. That is, we must consider evidence favorable to termination if a reasonable factfinder could, and disregard contrary evidence unless a reasonable factfinder could not. Id.
We must therefore consider all of the evidence, not just that which favors the verdict. Id. But we cannot weigh witness-credibility issues that depend on the appearance and demeanor of the witnesses, for that is the factfinder's province. Id. at 573, 574. And even when credibility issues appear in the appellate record, we must defer to the factfinder's determinations as long as they are not unreasonable. Id. at 573.
In reviewing the evidence for factual sufficiency, we must give due deference to the factfinder's findings and not supplant the judgment with our own. In re H.R.M., 209 S.W.3d 105, 108 (Tex. 2006).
We must determine whether, on the entire record, a factfinder could reasonably form a firm conviction or belief that the parents violated subsection (D) or (E) of section 161.001(1). Tex. Fam. Code Ann. 161.001; C.H., 89 S.W.3d at 28.
If, in light of the entire record, the disputed evidence that a reasonable factfinder could not have credited in favor of the finding is so significant that a factfinder could not reasonably have formed a firm belief or conviction in the truth of its finding, then the evidence is factually insufficient. H.R.M., 209 S.W.3d at 108.
"Endanger" means to expose to loss or injury, to jeopardize. Boyd, 727 S.W.2d at 533; In re J.T.G., 121 S.W.3d 117, 125 (Tex. App.--Fort Worth 2003, no pet.). Under subsection (D), it is necessary to examine 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. J.T.G., 121 S.W.3d at 125.
Conduct of a parent in the home can create an environment that endangers the physical and emotional well-being of a child. In re W.S., 899 S.W.2d 772, 776 (Tex. App.--Fort Worth 1995, no writ).
For example, abusive or violent conduct by a parent or other resident of a child's home may produce an environment that endangers the physical or emotional well-being of a child. See id. at 776-77; Ziegler v. Tarrant Cnty. Child Welfare Unit, 680 S.W.2d 674, 678 (Tex. App.--Fort Worth 1984, writ ref'd n.r.e.).
Under (E), the relevant inquiry is whether evidence exists that the endangerment of the children's physical well-being was the direct result of the parents' conduct, including acts, omissions, or failures to act. See J.T.G., 121 S.W.3d at 125; see also Tex. Fam. Code Ann. 161.001(1)(E).
Additionally, termination under (E) must be based on more than a single act or omission; the statute requires a voluntary, deliberate, and conscious course of conduct by the parent. J.T.G., 121 S.W.3d at 125; see Tex. Fam. Code Ann. 161.001(1)(E). It is not necessary, however, that the parents' conduct be directed at the children or that the children actually suffer injury. Boyd, 727 S.W.2d at 533; J.T.G., 121 S.W.3d at 125.
The specific danger to the children's well-being may be inferred from parental misconduct standing alone. Boyd, 727 S.W.2d at 533; In re R.W., 129 S.W.3d 732, 738 (Tex. App.--Fort Worth 2004, pet. denied).
To determine whether termination is necessary, courts may look to parental conduct occurring both before and after the children's birth. In re D.M., 58 S.W.3d 801, 812 (Tex. App.--Fort Worth 2001, no pet.).