How can parental rights be terminated in Texas?

I recently had a gentleman come into the Law Office of Bryan Fagan who had a question surrounding the issue of adoption of his wife’s child from a prior marriage. Apparently the biological father has never had much a relationship with the child and hasn’t even spoken to the child in some time. His question was in regard to wanting to do what is best for the child and how he could put himself in a position to be a “father” to the child. What this man didn’t come out and ask, but nonetheless needed to ask, was how a parent’s parental rights can come to be terminated.

Grounds for termination of parental rights in Texas

In the event that you find yourself needing to have someone’s parental rights terminated, you would need to look for the following circumstances to be in place:

-abandonment of the child

-the failure to provide support for the child (financial and/or emotional)

-the parent is incarcerated

-child abuse has been present in the home

-the parent is deceased

If you are in a position where you are a step parent who is interested in taking on the legal responsibility of a provider for a step child, then the best advice I can provide is to gain the consent of the parent whose rights would need to be terminated so that you can step in and assume those rights. If this is not possible then the above five provisions as outlined in the Texas Family Code will need to be examined by a judge. Let’s get into each one in greater detail:

-Abandonment of the child. It must have been shown that the parent whose rights you are seeking to terminate either completely left the home with no intent to return or simply failed to provide support for the child. This is, unfortunately, an all too common reality facing some families and may be a factor as to why you are seeking to adopt your step child.

-If the parent’s actions have put the child at risk of immediate harm (neglect as it is defined by the Texas Family Code) then you may have a situation where a judge may rule that it is in the best interest of your step child to have their biological mother or father’s rights terminated. Common examples are putting the child into situations where drugs, violence or the child’s safety in general is put at risk of being compromised

-If the parent has not done their part to encourage attendance at school then the parent’s rights are at risk of being terminated. A parent in Texas has an obligation to send their child to school up through a certain age. If the parent fails to do this they are in violation of the law and open themselves up to a proceeding to have their parental rights terminated

What is the process for having the parental rights of an alleged father be terminated?

In some instances there is no clear indication who the biological father of a child is. In the event that you need to terminate the parental rights of a man who has been alleged to be the father of a child the following steps would need to be looked into:

-a citation would need to be served on the alleged father and an opportunity for the father to respond would need to be provided (the first Monday after the expiration of twenty days from the date on which he was served with citation). An alleged father would need to file an Answer or a countersuit alleging his paternity to the child

-the child in question is over the age of one at the time you have filed a termination suit with the court. At this time the alleged father will have needed to register with the paternity registry for Texas. If an answer is not received from the alleged biological father, then you will need to show due diligence in locating him. In situations where neither the child’s mother nor you know who the father is, then due diligence will need to be shown to the court in attempting to ascertain who the father could be

-If the child you are seeking to adopt is under one year of age, it must be shown that at the time your suit to terminate his parent rights was filed that the alleged biological father had not yet registered with the paternity registry as previously discussed

-Or, if the alleged father has registered with the paternity registry but service of citation at the address listed on the forms provided to the registry was unsuccessful despite due diligence then a suit to terminate the man’s parental rights may proceed

Suffice it to say that in the event that you are seeking to terminate a biological parent’s rights to a child then you must follow what the law in Texas has to say regarding servicing the citation upon the parent and notifying them of the pending lawsuit against them. If you are able to make it past the lower court and have the person’s parental rights terminated and then move forward with an adoption that does not mean that the former parent cannot contest the process. Indeed, if the parent whose rights to the child have been terminated presents an issue to a higher court showing that notice was not provided then the entire adoption may be invalidated.

Questions on the termination of parental rights? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan today

If you are interested in terminating a person’s parental rights to a child that you want to adopt, or are a parent to a child and the other parent is not involved in the child’s life it is important to know the law in Texas and how it applies to your situation. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan offers free of charge consultations on this and any other family law subject you have questions on. Please contact us today to set up a consultation in a friendly, comfortable environment with one of our licensed family law attorneys.


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