You might wonder why a parent would ever want to terminate rights to their child, but this is a question that gets asked frequently. In Texas, a parent can terminate or voluntarily relinquish their own rights. However, there a few requirements that a parent must meet before a court will grant them this relinquishment.
GROUNDS FOR TERMINATION
To begin with, there are some statutory reasons that a parent would wish to relinquish their parental rights. First, if a parent has voluntarily left their child alone or with their other parent and expressed their intent not to return to their child, or if a parent has failed to provide adequate support for the child these may be grounds for a relinquishment.
Voluntary Termination While Pregnant
Next, you may voluntarily terminate parental rights during a pregnancy if you are an unmarried pregnant woman. The parent-child relationship will be terminated by the unmarried mother in this option when the mother intends to give her child up for adoption soon after they are born. This option becomes available after the mother’s first trimester of pregnancy in which she will have to petition to the court to terminate her rights. The court will hold a hearing typically at least five days after the birth, to give a mother time to make a rational decision. Should the mother change her mind, she will need to file an affidavit 48 hours or more after the child is born. This affidavit is revocable for 10 days, giving the mother even more time to reconsider her decision not to go through with the adoption.
Father’s Rights in an Involuntary Termination
A father and his rights will also be taken into consideration when a mother plans to go this direction. If a father has doubts about the paternity of the child, he may wish to not become involved in any further proceedings regarding the child. He will have the option of signing an Affidavit of Waiver of Interest, and this affidavit is irrevocable.
Furthermore, if you are a father unsure about the paternity of the child, a father still retains the same rights to the child. He can challenge the adoption himself because he has the right to protection where his relationship with his child is being terminated involuntarily. To do so he will need to file with the State of Texas paternity registry. This registry will allow a man to assume responsibility for a child that they might have fathered out of wedlock. If you are looking to protect your rights it is important to know that a failure to register with the Texas paternity register will result in a termination of your parental rights.
DIFFICULTY OF TERMINATION
Now that you understand the reasons why a parent might want to terminate their rights; it is important to understand the difficulty of terminating parental rights in Texas. This is because of the effect termination of parental rights will have on you and your relationship with your child. A termination is exactly what it sounds like, a parent will lose all rights and duties they have to their child including possession and access and child support requirements. This means you will literally lose your right to even see your child anymore. Your child will have to have a new birth certificate reissued with the relinquishing parent’s name removed. Termination of parental rights can be equated to the “death penalty”.
It is also important that most courts would not want to leave a child with just one parent, which is why Judges are reluctant to allow a termination of rights unless there is another parent that is ready to as an adoptive parent.
Burden of Proof Required
In most civil cases the burden of proof is by a “preponderance of the evidence”. A burden of proof is an obligation to prove what you are claiming. If you are wishing to involuntarily terminate your parental rights you will have to prove your grounds, or reasons, for termination by clear and convincing evidence. This standard is more difficult to prove than by a “preponderance of evidence” which is why it will be harder for a parent to prove they deserve a termination of their parental rights.
Best Interest of the Child
Not only will a parent be required to prove their case by a higher standard of clear and convincing evidence, but a parent’s constitutional rights will be weighed against what is in the best interest of the child. The court will place a greater weight on what is in the best interest of the child when deciding about relinquishment of rights.
There are factors a court will use when determining just what exactly is in the best interest of the child. These “Holley Factors” include –
- Your child’s desires;
- Their present/future emotional and physical needs;
- Present/future emotion and physical danger to a child;
- Parenting abilities of parent seeking custody;
- Available programs to help promote the best interest of the child;
- Parent seeking custody’s plans for the child
- Stability of the home where child will live
- Acts or omissions that may prove the existing parent-child relationship is not proper; and
- Excuses for those acts/omissions
COURT PROCEEDINGS, RISKS, AND CONSIDERATIONS
Before considering terminating your parental rights it is important know about the financial risks you will be taking. Terminating parental rights can only be done through the Texas courts and for that purpose you must file a lawsuit and prove the set-out requirements in the Texas Family Code Chapter 161.
Any lawsuit can tend to get expensive and you are not always guaranteed the outcome you desire. Therefore, you may incur thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees and run the risk of not winning your case. However, if your rights are relinquished child support obligations will be terminated too and possibly the child’s right to inherit from the relinquished parent under inheritance laws.
Another thing to consider is a relinquishment case is that the court typically appoints an attorney to represent the child. This is known as attorney ad litem, and their role includes fact gathering, interviewing parties/witnesses, making hearing appearances, and offering recommendations to the Judge. If there is an absent or unknown parent, the court may appoint an attorney to represent them as well. If ad litem is appointed, it is important to know you may be responsible for paying for that attorney and for helping locate the unknown parent.
If you are considering terminating your parental rights understanding the legal and financial consequences that come with it are just as important than the termination itself. Although your rights may have been terminated, whether voluntary or involuntary, there are still ways a parent can have their rights reinstated. However, reinstated is only allow in rare, exceptional circumstances, and for the most part termination is likely permanent. That is why being educated on the matter is imperative to not only yours, but your child’s future as well.
Here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we have informed and knowledgeable attorneys that are ready to offer you advice and information about the next steps when you begin to think you want to relinquish your rights.