Parents can feel the burden of raising and providing for a child in very 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 own 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 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 him or her to handle. The thought is that terminating their parental rights is preferable to continuing to pay 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 relinquish their parental rights to a child on a voluntary basis? 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 there is another person willing to step in and assume the rights and duties that you are wanting 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 not only means that you are not able to see him or her or impact their lives, but also you are not made to support him or her 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 his or her 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 the decision of whether or not to terminate your parental rights will come down a determination about 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 that a judge can do to upend this public policy objective than to terminate a parent’s parental rights. As such, it is not often that judges choose to do so on a voluntary basis.
Your parenting history will be evaluated by a judge as well as 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 him or her make a decision.
Unexpected pregnancy can lead to a difficult situation for fathers
Suppose that you were in a relationship with a woman but that the relationship ended some months ago. You are minding 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 let you know that she is pregnant and that the child is yours. Believing her completely, 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 actually 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 needed
In addition to showing that it is not in the child’s best interests to have you continue to legally be declared their father, a judge would also need clear and convincing evidence in order 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 best interests of the child 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 are the physical environment that awaits a child if your parental rights are terminated. In a scenario that involves you being named incorrectly as the legal father of the child there are obviously many factors to take into consideration.
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 the husband adopting his step daughter.
The child’s biological father was not a part her life though he was paying child support. The key to this situation was that the mother and step father were the only providers that the child has ever known and that the father was on board and willing to voluntarily relinquish his parental rights. I realize that this situation is not typical but when the best interests of the child line up with their parents goals it can help create a good outcome from a less than desirable set of circumstances.
Questions about voluntarily relinquishment of parental rights on 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.