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Terminating a Parent’s Rights to a Child in Texas

Terminating a parent’s rights to a child in Texas can be a complicated process. The two most common petitions are brought by:

  • A stepparent who wishes to adopt the child once the biological parents’ rights are terminated
  • The Department of Family Protective Services

Who Can File for the Termination of Parental Rights?

Either biological parent of the child can file for termination of parental rights in Texas.

Besides the parents of the child, the Texas Family Code allows for certain other people to be able to file for a termination of parental rights, including:

  • Any person who has some court-ordered access to the child
  • A man alleging to be the father of the child;
  • A foster parent of the child placed by the Department of Family Protective Services in your home for at least 12 months ending not more than 90 days before the date you file the termination case;
  • A prospective adoptive parent who has been given standing under a statement to confer standing;
  • The child’s grandparent, great-grandparent, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew, and the below:
    • if both parents are dead or 
    • both parents, the surviving parent, or managing conservator agree;
    • the child’s present circumstances will significantly harm the child’s physical health or emotional development;
  • Someone who has had actual care, control and possession of the child for at least 6 months ending not more than 90 days before the date you file the termination case with the court and you are not a foster parent;
  • Someone who has been designated the managing conservator of the child in an affidavit of relinquishment or has been given written consent to adopt the child; or
  • Someone who has lived with the child and the child’s parent, guardian, or conservator for at least 6 months ending not more than 90 days before the date they file the termination case, and the child’s parent, guardian, or conservator has died.:
  • The guardian of the child’s person or estate;
  • The child filing the case through an authorized representative (such as a guardian ad litem or attorney ad litem);
  • A governmental entity;
  • The Department of Family and Protective Services; or
  • A licensed child-placing agency.

What Is the Difference Between Voluntary Termination and Involuntary Termination?

When terminating one’s own parental rights voluntarily, the process is called “voluntary termination” or “relinquishment” An affidavit with witnesses will need to be filed with the Court showing that the biological parent is giving up their rights to the child. 

However, it is worth mentioning that just because someone is voluntarily terminating their rights to a child, a court must still find that the termination will be in the child’s best interest.

Involuntary termination is when the biological parent does not consent to their rights being terminated and the judge must find that there is clear and convincing evidence that termination would be in the best interest of the child.

What Grounds Can the Court Use to Terminate a Parent’s Rights Involuntarily?

If a petition is brought by any of the people listed above, the Court must find there are grounds for terminating the parental rights under the Texas Family Code. One may terminate parental rights when one or more of the following  situations is present:

  • Voluntary abandonment of child
  • Knowingly placing a child in harmful conditions
  • Failure to enroll the child in school
  • Failing to support the child for a period of one year ending within six months of the filing of a termination SAPCR
  • Being absent from the child’s home without consent of the other parent or guardian
  • An unrevoked affidavit of relinquishment on file as provided by the Texas Family Code
  • Conviction or being placed on community service or deferred adjudication for crimes against children within Title 3 of the Texas Penal Code
  • Having your parent-child relationship terminated with respect to another child per certain provisions of law
  • Failure to complete required substance abuse treatment programs or continuing to abuse substances following the completion of such program
  • Knowingly engaging in criminal conduct that results in conviction and being imprisoned or otherwise unable to care for the child for more than two years from the date of SAPCR filing
  • Murder or attempted murder of the child’s other parent

Why Should I Hire an Attorney to Terminate Parental Rights?

Terminating a parent’s rights is taken very seriously by Texas courts and often come with requirements and rules that may be difficult to understand. Finding an attorney with experience in the court system who is familiar with the requirements under the law as well as each judge’s personal prerequisites may save you time and money in the long run.

To speak to an attorney from our firm about stepparent adoption, we invite you to contact Hunt Law Firm, PLLC.

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