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Is it a good idea to hire an attorney when your parental rights can be terminated?

Being in a position where your parental rights are at risk of being terminated means that you have to make decisions that can affect the rest of your life and the rest of your child's life. You have to make decisions, but you have to make the correct decisions. Suppose you decide to take your case direction that it shouldn't. You will more than likely see your parental rights eliminated by the State of Texas. For this reason, you will want to ensure that you have people in your corner to help you make good decisions.

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, always advocate for our clients to seek comfort and support from their families and friends. We want our clients to have a functional support system that serves its purpose for when times get tough in a family law case. However, as supportive as a friend or family member, the person is not equipped to further their legal goals or protect their parental rights.

The stakes are high enough in a termination case that hiring an attorney is essential. There are two ways to have representation in your parental rights case termination. The first is to hire an attorney to represent you. Speaking to several different attorneys and then deciding on representation is what our office always suggests.

The other method would be to declare yourself indigent and unable to afford a private attorney. You can then request that the judge appoint an attorney for you in your case. The court will decide whether or not you are genuinely needy and need to have an attorney provided for you.

Special consideration for Native American (Indian) children

If you are a parent to a child who is a Native American and belongs to a tribe, different rules apply to your situation. The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) requires that any court seeking to terminate your parental rights needs to have a representative of the Indian tribe at the termination hearing.

That representative must agree to the termination for it to move forward. The standard to be used by a judge in this situation is that the judge must be entirely sure that letting your child remain in your care will result in harm to your child. This is a heavy burden to meet for a judge.

If your child is placed into foster care, is it guaranteed that your parental rights will be terminated?

Suppose a judge has ruled it in the best interests of your child to be removed from your home and placed into foster care. In that case, the State of Texas must provide you with an opportunity to receive treatment and eliminate the dangers inherent in your home or your relationship with your child.

Once your child is placed into foster care, the judge will hold hearings to receive updates on your progress in being reunited with your child. You must attend every court hearing on this subject and abide by any court orders in terms of remedial measures you must take to secure your home and improve your parenting skills.

How can you best ensure that your parental rights will not be terminated?

As we touched on yesterday, the State of Texas cannot ask a judge to terminate your parental rights based on your sex, nationality, or other characteristics. However, suppose it is shown that you allow your child to be put into dangerous situations that threaten their well-being mentally and physically. In that case, you run the risk of seeing your parental rights terminated.

As steps to take before and after a petition to terminate your parental rights has been filed, I recommend the following.

Suppose you become aware that Child Protective Services (CPS) is investigating your home and family for possible abuse or neglect of your child. In that case, the best thing you can do is hire an attorney and cooperate with the investigation. Get as much information as you can about the people working with you from CPS and ask how you assist them. Speak with your attorney before signing anything or turning over documents, however.

Communicate with CPS as much as you and your attorney believe is necessary. You are expected to take the initiative to make sure the lines of communication are open between you and CPS. CPS will not take those steps on its own. Ask CPS and your attorney questions if you do not understand what is expected of you or what the next steps in the process are. If you sign a document agreeing to do something, that means you have to follow through, even if you think the document is silly or pointless.

Once a petition to terminate your parental rights has been filed, work with your attorney to make sure you can show a judge that you are taking this case seriously and are working towards reunification with your family. Taking steps to attend counseling or treatment, fixing unsafe conditions in your home, attending meetings with CPS, and generally making your life better for a child is what a court wants to see. It guarantees you nothing, but doing nothing guarantees that your parental rights will be terminated.

Can you get the rights of your child's other parent terminated as well?

In all likelihood, the answer to this question is "no." Almost every family court judge in Texas believes that a child should have two parents. With this in mind, the judge will likely not want to terminate a parent's rights unless there is an overwhelmingly good reason to do so. Even if you and the other parent agree to the termination, this is true. It must be in your child's best interests to have a parent's parental rights terminated.

If you are in a position where your new spouse wants to adopt your child, then a court may consider whether or not to terminate the other parent's parental rights. If your ex-spouse agrees to terminate their parental rights, then that is a different story. A petition can be filed showing this to a judge, and the judge will need to decide if doing so is in your child's best interests. Stepparent adoption can occur if your current spouse is strong enough to assume parental rights.

For all of this to occur, you must be remarried, have a spouse who wants to adopt your child, and have your ex-spouse agree to the stepparent adoption.

Finally, keep in mind that the State is motivated by keeping children from relying on government assistance for food, shelter, and health insurance. Two parents are more likely to provide these services for children as opposed to one. If your child is on government assistance, this will likely factor into that decision.

Termination of parental rights is a serious matter. You ought to hire a severe attorney of response.

Facing the prospect of having your parental rights terminated is a scary thought. You are looking at a future without your child and the guilt of allowing yourself to lose your parental rights. Without assistance in the courtroom, your fate may well be sealed.

It doesn't have to be this way, however. You can seek legal counsel who not only knows the law, is experienced in the courtroom, and are solid advocates but also genuinely want what is best for you and your family. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, are those people. We work solely on family law cases and represent people like you across southeast Texas. If you are worried about your child's future relationship, please contact us today.

We offer free of charge consultations with a licensed family law attorney six days a week. It would be an honor to work for and with you to achieve your particular goals. Thank you for your time and interest in this vital topic.

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