Simply put, terminating your parental rights occurs when your rights to your child are taken away. This means that you are no longer your child’s parent and have no duty to support him or her and have no rights to make decisions regarding their well being. Any legal relationship between you and the child has been dissolved completely.
Specifically, you do not have the right to talk to your child or visit with him or her. Any decision-making capabilities that you formerly held regarding how the child is raised and how the child is taken care of are also taken away. Finally, your child can be adopted if he or she is taken into the care of the State of Texas.
Why would a court decide to terminate your parental rights?
Parental rights are terminated infrequently in order to protect your child’s safety and well being. If it determined that your child is in a situation that is dangerous and that you are not taking steps to prevent harm from occurring to your child then it is likely your child will be removed from your care and your rights terminated as to that child.
This is done over a period of time and you are given multiple opportunities to prevent this from happening.
Voluntary vs. Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights
When you agree with the request to have your parental rights terminated this means that you voluntarily relinquished your parental rights. There is a wide range of circumstances that could lead to you voluntarily terminating your parental rights. A judge will have to make the decision that the termination of your parental rights is in the best interests of your child before signing an order doing so.
When you do not agree to have your parental rights terminated in relation to your child then this is what is known as an involuntary termination of your parental rights. A court, at the request of your child’s other parent, or the State, can agree to terminate your parental rights despite your objections.
When your rights are involuntarily terminated you run the risk of losing your rights to your future children as well. Child Protective Services (CPS) can investigate you in the future and again ask a court to terminate your rights to any children you parent in the years ahead.
What sort of contact can you have with your former child after your parental rights are terminated?
If your child is to be adopted by another person or family then you and that family can discuss together what, if any, contact you can have with that child moving forward. Sometimes you and the family can come to an agreement on this subject.
If you cannot you will not be able to see the child. No court order terminating your parental rights will have a section that details future contact between you and the child. Any agreements reached in writing with foster agencies or the State of Texas should be filed with the court.
In what ways can your parental rights be terminated?
Perhaps the most common means by which your parental rights can be terminated is if CPS files a petition to do so after conducting an investigation into a report of abuse or neglect of your child by you or your spouse.
Depending on the outcome of that investigation, their attorneys may file a petition in court requesting a hearing on whether or not there is sufficient cause to terminate your parental rights. It is a high hurdle to clear for the State but it does happen that parental rights are terminated against the wishes of the parent.
A judge will take into consideration the evidence presented and will usually allow you an opportunity to better yourself and your home in order to have your child returned to your care. This can mean things like removing adults who pose a threat to your child’s well being, remedying a household hazard that can cause your child harm or attending counseling or outreach programs to better yourself.
It is crucial that you follow the plan outlined by CPS. The plan will become the orders of the judge and you are obligated to follow those orders to live up to the terms of your plan. If you fail to do so the consequences can be dire, including the termination of your parental rights. An attorney of CPS would need to provide evidence to the court that they attempted to have your child return to your home and that you did not live up to your end of the orders.
If your parental rights are terminated then your child will be placed into the care of the State or an adoption agency. In the event that your child’s other parent has their rights still intact your child will be placed with that parent.
What can the State of Texas base terminated law
There are a number of grounds that the State of Texas (through the county attorneys where your child resides) can cite as to why your parental rights need to be terminated. Let’s discuss a few of those here in this space:
Abandoning your child is one such reason. If you have not had contact with your child for the past six months, or have generally shown an unwillingness to care for their wellbeing for at least six months then you run the risk of having your parental rights terminated.
Neglect of a child is a reason why a report can be made to CPS. If you place a child into a situation where there is a foreseeable risk of harm or fail to remove your child from a situation where there is a foreseeable risk of harm you have neglected him or her. No physical or emotional harm has to actually have occurred, though it often times does. You need only have failed to act to protect your child.
Abuse is another reason why the State of Texas can ask to terminate your parental rights. Abuse comes in many different varieties including physical, mental or sexual abuse. Many different scenarios can lead to abuse but you as the parent are ultimately responsible for the well being of your child. If your child is abused by you and criminal charges are filed you will be fighting an uphill battle to maintain your parental rights.
Does the court take into consideration difficult life circumstances when deciding whether or not to terminate your parental rights?
To an extent, no, your parental rights cannot be terminated due to your poor life circumstances.
Mental health issues, poverty, and financial difficulties are all circumstances that can potentially harm a child but are not always within the control of parents. If you find yourself in this type of situation, however, you cannot sit idly by and expect that your life circumstances will justify your exposing your child to dangerous situations.
The State of Texas through CPS offers assistance to parents who face extreme life situations that otherwise would risk your parental rights being terminated.
It is your responsibility to identify problem areas in your life and reach out for assistance and help. Your failure to do so coupled with your child being abused or neglected as a result is a recipe for parental rights termination.
Will you need to hire a lawyer to defend you in a termination suit? Come back tomorrow to read more
Deciding whether or not to hire an attorney, or to request one from the State, can be the most important decision you make in a termination case. Be sure to return to our blog tomorrow to read more on this and other topics associated with termination cases
If you have any questions in the meantime about Texas family law matters please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week with a licensed family law attorney. It would be our honor to consult with you on your situation and to discuss your questions in a comfortable, pressure-free environment.