Parents can feel the burden of raising and providing for a child in tangible ways- beyond merely feeling overwhelmed or stressed out. For example, if you are a father of a child and are paying child support to your child's mother, you feel the tangible effects of providing your child each month when child support is taken out of your paychecks. While you understand that the money is going towards the support and upbringing of your child, it is difficult for you to pay your bills now that at least twenty percent of your net monthly income is going towards child support.
What if it got so bad for you, from a financial perspective, that you were no longer able to keep your head above water? Suppose that you never fell behind in paying child support, but that the rest of your life was stuck in neutral, or worse, because of the inability to pay bills, save for retirement, or do much of anything else? You love your child, but the rest of your life is in constant turmoil. What options are there for you to address this situation?
It is sad to say, but I have encountered parents who have contacted the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, to discuss the possibility of terminating their parental rights because the burden of paying monthly child support has become too much for them to handle. The thought is that terminating their parental rights is preferable to paying child support while maintaining a legal relationship between the parent and their child.
These folks had the same question that you likely do right now: Is it possible for a parent to voluntarily relinquish their parental rights to a child? Today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, will discuss that topic in some detail in pursuit of an answer to that question.
Terminating Parental Rights in Texas
The quick answer is that it is not easy to terminate your parental rights in Texas. Unless another person is willing to step in and assume the rights and duties you want to relinquish, a judge will not be quick to terminate your parental rights absent a strong reason. The reason for this is that it is the public policy of our state to encourage parents to take an active and involved role in the lives of their children.
Terminating a parent's parental rights means that you cannot see them or impact their lives, and you are not made to support them financially. That burden may ultimately fall to the state in the future if your child's other parent cannot care for the child sufficiently on their own. A judge will not place this potential burden on the state without reason or cause.
What is in the best interests of your child?
Ultimately the decision of a judge to terminate your parental rights does not boil down to what is best for you, your pocketbook, or that of your child's other parent. The most important factor when a judge is faced with deciding whether or not to terminate your parental rights will come down to determining what is in your child's best interests.
We've already mentioned that the public policy of our state is to encourage both parents of a child to take an active and involved role in the upbringing of that child. There is nothing more than a judge can do to upend this public policy objective than to terminate a parent's parental rights. It is not often that judges choose to do so voluntarily.
A judge will evaluate your parenting history, and the ability for your child to succeed after a possible termination of your parental rights will be considered. If your child is over the age of 12, it could be that the judge will want to speak to your child directly in their chambers to help them makes a decision.
An unexpected pregnancy can lead to a problematic situation for fathers
Suppose that you were in a relationship with a woman but that the relationship ended some months ago. You mind your own business when one day you get a call from a friend that your ex-girlfriend was at the grocery store and she looked to be pregnant. You do some quick mental math and figure out that the child could be yours, but you may not be sure.
Your ex-girlfriend contacts you to tell you that she is pregnant and that the child is yours. Believing her ultimately, you file with the State paternity registry and begin to pay child support dutifully to the child's mother when the child is born. Everything seems fine until you begin to lose faith that the child is your flesh and blood. People in your neighborhood have alleged in the past that the child isn't yours, but you didn't believe them. Now you're presented with evidence that pretty clearly shows the child isn't yours. Can you take steps to have your paternity terminated?
The answer is that you need to act immediately as soon as you have a suspicion that the child you are paying support towards may not be yours after all. There are time limits to doing this, and the longer it takes you to act, the worse your chances are of having your parental rights and duties terminated.
Clear and convincing evidence is needed.
In addition to showing that it is not in the child's best interests to have you continue to be declared their father legally, a judge would also need clear and convincing evidence to terminate your parental rights. The allegation that you are not the child's biological father must be more likely true than not true. A DNA test is a typical way to prove this allegation.
The child's best interests are met when there is another man who is willing to step forward to assume the parental rights that you seek to be terminated. The child's physical and emotional needs are relevant to this discussion, as is the physical environment that awaits a child if your parental rights are terminated. In a scenario involving you being misnamed as the legal father of the child, there are many factors to consider.
Termination of Parental Rights in Texas as a bridge towards a better life for your child
In some situations, an adoptive parent is waiting in the wings for a biological parent to terminate their parental rights. In a situation that we encountered on behalf of one of our recent clients, a mother and her current husband came to speak to us about the possibility of adopting his stepdaughter.
The child's biological father was not a part of her life though he paid child support. The key to this situation was that the mother and stepfather were the only providers that the child had ever known. The father was on board and willing to relinquish his parental rights voluntarily. I realize that this situation is not typical, but when the child's best interests line up with their parent's goals, it can help create a good outcome from a less than desirable set of circumstances.
Questions about voluntary relinquishment of parental rights in Texas? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
The attorneys and staff with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, thank you for your time and interest in reading this blog post. If you have any additional questions regarding the termination of a parent's parental rights, please do not hesitate to contact our office. We offer free of charge consultations with one of our licensed family law attorneys, where your questions can be answered in a comfortable environment.