Attorney for Termination of Parental Rights in Texas
How, When, and Why Rights Can be Canceled Legally
Termination of parental rights in Texas can be thought of in two ways: when one side wants the rights terminated and the other side doesn’t and when both sides want the rights terminated.
What if the other parent wants to terminate my parental rights, but I don’t?
The Texas Family Code has twenty different grounds for terminating parental rights. If one of these grounds exists, then the Court or a Jury has the ability to terminate rights. That does not mean it will happen. In family law, termination is thought of much like the death penalty in criminal cases. It’s final and there’s little to no chance of coming back from it. These grounds range from a long-standing failure to support the child to incarceration to endangering or abusing the child. In most circumstances, even if one of the conditions for termination exist, the facts usually need to be pretty egregious to warrant termination. A complete list of the grounds for termination of parental rights, which go beyond the scope of just custodial rights in Texas, is included at the bottom of this article.
What if we both parents want to terminate the parental rights?
District Courts are a part of the state government and the state of Texas has an interest in your child. Part of that interest is practical – the state does not want to support a child if there are parents available to do so. Let’s imagine that the Court terminated one of the parent’s rights. Then, a year later, the one remaining parent got into a fatal car accident. There would be no one left who is legally obligated to support that child. With that in mind, will the Court sign off on a termination of parental rights if both parties are agreeing to it? Maybe not, but there are some things you can do to satisfy the Court that the termination is appropriate and best for the child.
- If the parent terminating their rights pays a lump sum amount of money to help provide for the child, then the state’s interests are satisfied. How much that lump sum amount should be will depend on the case. If a lump sum amount of money is not available, then an order can be crafted which requires the terminating parent to continue to pay child support for a period of time. The enforcement of that child support may be questionable, since no parent/child relationship will exist, but it is a possibility.
- If there is another person or persons willing to step in and become a conservator, along with the non-terminated parent, then a Court can feel more confident that the child will be cared for in the future. This could be a step parent, a grandparent or an aunt or uncle. Before giving conservatorship rights for your child to someone – anyone – you should speak to an attorney about the long-range consequences and potential problems that can create.
- If both parties agree that the terminating parent falls under one of the grounds for termination in the Texas Family Code, then a Court may find the termination to be in the best interest of the child. This is a very rare occurrence. Few people want a finding in an Order signed by a Judge that they are a danger to a child, that they refused to support their child, that they have drug problems, etc.
Do I have to pay child support if my parental rights are terminated?
Generally, a termination of parental rights in Texas is also a termination of any obligation to support the child in the future. However, if an arrearage for child support exists at the time of the termination, a Court has the ability to order it paid either in lump sum or over time.
How does terminating parental rights effect a stepparent adoption?
The termination clears the way for a stepparent adoption. If, for instance, the stepfather wants to adopt the child, the termination of the biological father will open the path to do so. Of course, the mother will have to be in agreement.
When Can Parental Rights be Terminated According to Texas Family Law Code?
Below are the grounds (or legal reasons for termination) found in Section 161 of the Texas Family Code. A Judge or a Jury has the ability, though not the obligation, to terminate a parent’s parental rights if that parent:
- Voluntarily leaves the child alone or in the possession of someone who isn’t their parent and expresses an intent not to return
- Voluntarily leaves the child alone or in the possession of someone who isn’t their parent, does not express an intent to return, does not support the child, and stays away for at least three months
- Voluntarily leaves the child alone or with another person and does not support the child for at least six months
- Knowingly places or leaves the child in circumstances which endanger the child
- Engages in conduct or puts the child with people who engage in conduct which endanger the child
- Fails to support the child for a period of one year;
- Abandons the child without identification, so long as the child’s identity cannot be reasonably ascertained
- Voluntarily abandoned the mother while she was pregnant with the child, if the father knew the mother was pregnant
- Refuses to submit to an order of the Court under Subchapter D (which is about the abuse or neglect of a child)
- Been a major cause of the child not being enrolled in school or the child not being home with a guardian of the child for a substantial period of time without the intent to return
- Executed an affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights
- Been convicted or put on community supervision for being criminally responsible for the death or serious bodily injury of a child
- Had their parental rights terminated for another child under paragraphs d or e above
- Abandoned the child when the child is in the care of the Department of Family and Protective Services
- Failed to follow a Court Order which provides for the actions necessary to obtain the return of the child when the child is in the care of the Department of Family and Protective Services for at least nine months when the child was placed with DFPS because of the abuse or neglect of the child
- Used a controlled substance in a manner that endangered the child and failed to finish a Court-Ordered treatment program or, after completing the program, continued to abuse substances
- Knowingly engaged in criminal conduct that resulted in that parent’s conviction and incarceration for at least two years
- Been the cause of the child being born addicted to an illegal substance
- Voluntarily delivered the child to a designated emergency infant care provider without expressing an intent to return (this falls under Section 262.302, which allows for a parent to drop off a child to an emergency infant care provider so that the child may be cared for and placed for adoption)
- Been convicted of:
- Murder of the other parent
- The attempted murder of the other parent
- Tried to hire someone to kill the other parent