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 remove or voluntarily relinquish their rights. However, there are a few requirements that a parent must meet before a court grants 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 pregnancy if you are an unmarried pregnant woman. The unmarried mother will end the parent-child relationship in this option when the mother intends to give her child up for adoption soon after birth. This option becomes available after the mother's first trimester of pregnancy, in which she will have to petition 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 ten 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 considered when a mother plans to go in this direction. If a father has doubts about the child's paternity, he may wish not to 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 child's paternity, 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 they might have fathered out of wedlock. If you want to protect your rights, it is essential to know that a failure to register with the Texas paternity register will terminate your parental rights.
DIFFICULTY OF TERMINATION
Now that you understand why a parent might want to terminate their rights, it is crucial to understand the difficulty of removing parental rights in Texas. This is because the effective termination of parental rights will have on you and your relationship with your child. An ending is precisely what it sounds like; a parent will lose all rights and duties to their child, including possession and access and child support requirements. This means you will lose your right even to 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 essential 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 ready to be an adoptive parent.
The burden of Proof is Required.
In most civil cases, the Burden of Proof is by a "preponderance of the evidence." A load of evidence is an obligation to prove what you are claiming. If you wish to terminate your parental rights involuntarily, 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 the evidence," which is why it will be harder for a parent to establish 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 child's best interest when deciding about relinquishment of rights.
A court will use factors 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 emotional and physical danger to a child;
- Parenting abilities of the parent seeking custody;
- Available programs to help promote the best interest of the child;
- A parent seeking custody's plans for the child
- Stability of the home where the 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 essential to know about the financial risks you will be taking. Concluding 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 in 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. If ad litem is set, it is essential to know you may be responsible for paying for that attorney and for helping locate the unknown parent.
If you consider terminating your parental rights, understanding the legal and financial consequences is just as crucial as the termination itself. Although your rights may have been removed, whether voluntary or involuntary, there are still ways a parent can have their rights reinstated. However, reinstated is only allowed 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 your but your child's future as well.
Here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we have informed and knowledgeable attorneys ready to offer you advice and information about the next steps when you begin to think you want to relinquish your rights.