What are common grounds for terminating parental rights in Texas?

Every state has its own process regarding how to terminate parental rights. In Texas, individual parents may decide to do this on their own, or it is possible that the termination is a court-mandated order.

It is important to understand what the grounds for termination are, and what excuses are considered to be invalid. Additionally, anyone interested in the process should have an understanding of what to expect.

Grounds for involuntary termination

Texas law clearly outlines several situations in which an involuntary termination of parental rights may occur. For example, a court could order a mother to terminate her rights if she has a child who is born and clearly experiences withdrawal due to the mother abusing a substance while pregnant.

Other circumstances in which a parent may be required to terminate rights include the following:

  • If the parent is found to have abandoned the child, even if it is with someone else
  • If the parent knowingly put the child in harm's way
  • If the parent fails to support the child for a certain period of time
  • If the parent has been convicted of a crime pertaining to the death or serious injury of a child

It is possible for someone who opposes the termination to seek legal recourse.

Grounds for voluntary termination

Even when a parent agrees to voluntarily terminate his or her rights, a judge must agree to it.  It is common for a Court to appoint an amicus attorney to represent the child and to make a recommendation to the Court on whether termination of a parent's rights would be in the child's best interests.  For example, some people try to end their rights as a parent primarily to avoid having to pay child support.  In such a case, an amicus attorney appointed to represent the best interests of the child would be more likely to recommend such a termination if that attorney was convinced that an adoptive parent was ready, willing and able to assume the future support obligations of the terminated parent. However, most courts do not allow this. In other cases, a parent may voluntarily terminate rights simply out of a lack of interest in the child, or because a man has been genetically proven not to be the father of the child.

The process

There are several steps someone may take to end a person's rights to a child. For example, in a case of abuse, a claim may be filed with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. The DFPS also notes that it is required to request the parental rights to a child if that child has been in foster care for a period of 15 months over the span of 22 months.

People may also file paperwork in county court, providing evidence of one of the above-mentioned grounds for termination. There are filing fees involved with this process.

Terminating parental rights is serious, as it ends someone's legal ability to visit with or even contact a child, in some circumstances. Anyone who has questions about this process should speak with a family law attorney in Texas.