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Voluntarily Relinquishing Your Parental Rights in Texas

I periodically consult with a potential client who ask about terminating their own parental rights. Why would a parent want to relinquish their parental rights? In this case as in it came come down to money.

The father felt that child support was too much of a burden and would rather completely break apart his relationship with his child than live up to the obligation of paying child support.

How easy is it to Terminate Your Parental Rights?

As a general proposition, it is extremely difficult for a parent to terminate their own parental rights in Texas. Their rights and duties as a parent are severed from the child or children when this occurs. The right to see them, discipline them or even contact them goes away. No more permanent sign of this comes in the form of a birth certificate being reissued that removes the name of the relinquishing parent.

However, unless another person is ready to step in as an adoptive father/mother, judges in Texas are typically reluctant to typically allow a quick and easy termination of rights.

Financial Risks and Considerations

There are some financial risks worth considering before deciding to attempt to terminate parental rights.

Terminating parental rights in Texas requires filing a lawsuit for that purpose and proving the requirements set out in the Texas Family Code Chapter 161.

As with any lawsuit this can be an expensive and there is no guarantee that the court will agree to terminate parental rights. You may spend thousands of dollars to get before a judge and be told no.

If a parent’s rights are terminated it this also terminates child support obligations and possibly the child’s right to inherit from that parent under inheritance laws.

Burden of Proof Needed

A person seeking to involuntarily terminate a person’s parental rights must prove the alleged grounds for termination by clear and convincing evidence.

Clear and convincing evidence is a higher standard than “preponderance of the evidence,” which is generally used civil disputes.

Best Interest of the Child

Termination of the parent-child relationship has been compared to the "death penalty." Courts are forced to weigh the constitutionally protected rights of parents against as with most family law cases, the best interest of the child.

While a parent that wishes to relinquish their parental rights can do so with the aid of a sworn statement which details their intent to do so, the court must decide that it is in the best interest of the child to have the rights of the parent be voluntarily relinquished.

The Court will consider what are known as the “Holley Factors” when trying to determine what would be in the child’s best interest. Those factors include:

  1. the child’s desires;
  2. the child’s present and future emotional and physical needs;
  3. the present and future emotional and physical danger to the child;
  4. the parenting abilities of the persons seeking custody;
  5. the programs available to the persons seeking custody to help promote the best interest of the child;
  6. the plans for the child by those persons seeking custody;
  7. the stability of the home or proposed placement;
  8. the acts or omissions of the parent which may indicate that the existing parent child relationship is not a proper one; and
  9. any excuse for the acts or omissions of the parent.

Attorney Ad Litem May Be Needed

  1. The court may appoint an attorney to represent your child - Often called an "attorney ad litem", this attorney will gather facts, interview involved parties and witnesses, appear at hearings, and make recommendations to the Judge.
  2. Another attorney may be appointed to represent an absent or unknown parent.
  3. This type of case can be expensive. In addition to paying for an attorney to help you with the termination. You may also have to pay for the attorney for your child and to locate the absentee parent if this is unknown.

Statutory Reasons for Granting Termination of Parental Rights

A few of the more common scenarios in which a parent can relinquish their parent rights include:

  1. when they have voluntarily left the child alone or in the possession of another parent AND have expressed an intent not to return.
  1. The failure to provide adequate support for the child and remaining away from the child for at least three months is another example that can piggy back off the initial fact pattern provided at the outset of this paragraph.

Voluntary Termination During Pregnancy

The parent-child relationship may be terminated voluntarily by an unmarried pregnant woman. Many women choose this route to allow the child to be adopted soon after they are born. An unwed mother may file her petition to terminate her rights as a parent anytime after her first trimester of pregnancy.

A hearing will be held on her petition at least five days after the child is born, giving the mother the chance to change her mind. If the mother does not wish to go to court, Texas law allows for her to file an affidavit instead, forty-eight hours or more after the child is born. This affidavit is still revocable for ten days, giving her another opportunity to change her mind. Both adult and teenage mothers may sign these affidavits.

Of course, the rights of the father must also be addressed in the termination. These men have the option of signing an Affidavit of Waiver of Interest, which is irrevocable. It basically says that the man does not believe he is the father, and will not be involved in any further proceedings.

The Rights of Fathers Even if Unknown

Fathers have the same right to their children as mothers. A father has the right to challenge the adoption of his child, and has a right to protection where their relationship with their child is being terminated involuntarily.

Many men do not know that The State of Texas maintains a paternity registry. This registry allows men to assume responsibility for children they may have fathered out of wedlock. Filing with this registry protects your right to be involved in legal proceedings regarding your children. Perhaps more importantly, failure to register may terminate your parental rights.

While the decision to relinquish your rights to a child is not an easy one to arrive at, the attorneys at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC are willing to advise and assist a person interested in doing so. Please contact our office to learn more about this process and how we are able to help you navigate this area of law.

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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our divorce lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.

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