Termination of Parental Rights
Parental rights may be terminated for any number of reasons, such as a parent’s imprisonment or a history of child abuse. For more information about the termination of parental rights in Texas, please refer to the article below.
Texas courts take the voluntary or involuntary termination of parental rights cases very seriously. Whenever possible, the court prefers to keep families and parental rights intact. However, under certain circumstances, it may be necessary to end the parent-child relationship such as if the parent voluntarily terminates their rights or parents abandoned the child.
What happens when parental rights are terminated?
The Texas Family Code recognizes a parent as any person who is the child’s legal or natural mother or father. The legal parent could be a biological parent, stepparent, or adoptive parent. When a person’s parental rights are terminated, several things happen. The loss of parent’s rights mean the parent will:
- No longer have any legal rights to a parent-child relationship.
- Give up the right to any contact or visitation with the child – this may be different in adoption or voluntary termination cases.
- Have no part in raising the child.
- Be removed from the child’s birth certificate.
- No longer have a right to contest an adoption.
- No longer have an obligation to pay child support.
Whether voluntary or involuntary, the court must approve a petition to terminate a parent’s rights. Signing the affidavit alone is not enough. The court must first hear the petition and review the complaint against the parent(s) and consider the child’s welfare and best interest. They will review any evidence submitted to the court and may conduct their own investigation into the claims. If there is clear and convincing evidence that the parent is unfit and reasonable efforts to reunite the family have been unsuccessful – only then will the court terminate a parent’s rights.
Terminating Parental Rights
Who Can File for Termination of Parental Rights?
Either parent can file for termination. If you are not the child’s natural parent, you can file if you are:
- The alleged father of the child
- A foster parent
- A prospective adoptive parent
- A close relative
- The guardian ad litem filing on behalf of the child.
- A legal guardian of the child
- A person with the court-ordered visitation of the child
- A person who has had the total care, control, and possession of the child for at least six months.
- The managing conservator of the child
- A person living with the child and the child’s parent, guardian, or conservator.
- The Department of Family and Protective Services
- A licensed child-placement agency, such as for foster care or adoption services
When Can I File for Termination of Parental Rights?
The process to terminate parental rights can begin at any time before or after the birth of the child. The time frame for when you can file varies based on who is filing and why. For example, if a man raising a child as his own learns he is not the child’s biological father, he must file within two years of that date. Consult with an experienced family law attorney to make sure you file within the proper time frame for petition to terminate parental rights.
Reinstatement of Parental Rights
Texas courts take the termination of parental rights very seriously. As a result, it isn’t easy to reinstate a parent’s rights. Speak with an experienced family law attorney to see if your circumstances qualify.
Checklist: Grounds for Terminating Parental Rights
To terminate a parent’s rights, the state must prove that there is clear and convincing legal evidence to declare a parent as unfit. Reasons to terminate a parent’s rights might include evidence of:
- Severe or chronic abuse or neglect of any child in the household
- Abandonment – i.e., absent parent, prolonged lack of contact, interest in, or financial support of the child, or leaving a newborn at a safe-haven provider.
- Long-term mental illness or incapacity due to addiction
- Child exploitation or child molestation
- Involuntary termination of rights of the parent to another child
- Sexual abuse
- Charges of human or sex trafficking of a minor
- Sex crimes against the mother resulting in the conception of the child.
- A felony conviction of violence against the child or another family member
- A conviction of any felony resulting in long-term incarceration, especially when there are no alternative placements – requiring the child to enter foster care.
Adoption in Texas
How is Adoption Different from Gaining Custody of a Child?
Under the Texas Family Code, a ‘parent’ is the child’s legal or natural mother or father. This includes adoptive parents. Adoptive parents have all the same rights as if they were the child’s biological parents. The adopted child will also have the same rights as any natural children of their adoptive parents, including inheritance.
A conservator is someone who has court-ordered custody of a child. They are only granted the rights listed in the court order. A child raised by a conservator does not have the same rights as the conservator’s natural children. For the child to inherit anything from a conservator, it would have to be left to them in the conservator’s will. Otherwise, the child is not entitled to any portion of the conservator’s estate.
Who Can Ask to Adopt a Child?
Any adult can petition for adoption of an eligible child. A child may be eligible for adoption if:
- Both parents have passed away.
- Both parents have, or will have, their parental rights terminated.
- One parent has lost or will lose their parental rights, and the other parent’s spouse is seeking adoption.
- The child is at least two years old, one of the parents has lost their parental rights, and
- The non-terminated parent consents to the adoption; or
- The adult seeking adoption is the child’s former stepparent AND is also a managing conservator or has had actual care, control, and possession of the child for at least 12 months before filing.
When Can a Child Be Adopted?
A child can be adopted at any point after living with the adult seeking adoption for a period of at least six months. The court may waive this requirement if it is in the best interest of the child.
Who Needs to Agree to an Adoption?
All parties involved in the adoption must agree, except when the biological parents have died, or their parental rights terminated. For example, if a married person asks to adopt a child, their spouse must consent to the adoption and their name added to the petition to adopt. If the child has a managing conservator, the conservator must consent to the adoption. The court may waive this requirement if the conservator has refused to or has revoked consent without good reason. Additionally, if the child is over the age of 12, the child must consent to the adoption. However, the court may waive this requirement if the adoption is in the child’s best interest.
Does adoption require termination of parental rights?
Texas law requires that a child have only one set of legal parents. Unless one or both parents have died, at least one parent’s rights will need to be terminated to make room for the adult seeking adoption.
The Best Interests of the Child: The Legal Standard
The child’s best interest is the standard a judge will use to make their final decision in an adoption case. To arrive at this decision, the court will:
- Conduct personal interviews of the child and adoptive parents.
- Observe the child in different home environments.
- Assess the child’s relationship with the adults involved in the adoption.
- Evaluate the home environments where the child might live.
- Consider any criminal history of persons living in the homes involved.
If the adoptive parents are non-relatives, the court will also order reports on their health, education, social, and genetic history.
During the hearing, the judge will hear all testimonies of the involved adults. The judge will also review any relevant reports and studies. Ultimately, the judge will favor whichever household is most capable of meeting the child’s needs and award legal custody.
Do I Need an Adoption Lawyer?
If you seek to adopt a child, it is a good idea to hire or seek an attorney’s advice. Adoption cases can be quite complicated. Hiring the right family law attorney can improve your chances of a successful adoption.
Contact Our Law Firm
If you have questions regarding termination of parental rights or adoption, contact The Jimenez Law Firm, P.C. and one of our family law lawyers, by calling or by completing the contact form on this website. We offer consultations and accept most major credit cards for the payment of services.