Child listening as a couple discuss with their lawyer the grounds for termination of paternal rights in Texas

The Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights in Texas

Parental rights are the foundation of the family structure in Texas. These rights allow parents to legally make decisions that affect their children’s well-being. However, this relationship can be broken if a court determines the child is unsafe in their current environment.

If you are going through a legal situation that affects the parent-child relationship, then it’s important to understand the grounds for termination of parental rights in Texas. Find out more about how this works in our state.

The Serious Nature of Terminating Parental Rights in Texas

Terminating parental rights in Texas will permanently end the relationship between a child and one or both parents, so it’s a serious legal action with some significant consequences. This termination is not taken lightly by the court, as it will alter the bond between a parent and a child, often with profound emotional repercussions.

When parental rights are cut off, this action prevents a parent from being able to make later claims to a child, can end child support duties, and can help a child to become eligible for adoption.

Who Can File for the Termination of Parental Rights?

Either biological parent can file for the termination of parental rights in the State of Texas. 

Additionally, the Texas Family Code allows other parties to file the same petition requesting the termination of one or both parents’ rights. Some of these qualified parties include the following:

  • Anyone who has some type of court-ordered access to the child.
  • A man alleging to be the father of the child.
  • A foster parent of the child who has been placed by the Department of Family Protective Services in his or her home for at least 12 months.
  • A prospective adoptive parent who can argue for legal access to the child.
  • A close family relative (e.g. grandparent, aunt, or uncle) in the event that one or both parents are incapacitated in some form.
  • Someone who has had actual care, control, and possession of the child for at least six months.
  • Someone who has been designated the managing conservator of the child in a previous legal matter.
  • Someone who has lived with the child and the child’s parent, guardian, or conservator for at least six months.
  • The guardian of the child’s person or estate.
  • An authorized representative of the child (such as a guardian or attorney).
  • A government entity.
  • The Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) / Child Protective Services (CPS)
  • A licensed child-placing agency.

There is a long list of parties who can try to terminate parental rights to gain access to your child. However, they must have a legal claim in order to pursue this action. This is why it’s important to understand how voluntary and involuntary termination works.

Difference Between Voluntary Termination vs. Involuntary Termination

– If you’re making a decision to terminate your own parental rights, it’s referred to as a voluntary termination (which is sometimes referred to as “relinquishment”).

In this case, you will need to file an affidavit with the court stating that you, as the biological parent, are signing away your parental rights. But even if you decide to voluntarily give up your rights to the child, the court will still determine if doing so is in the child’s best interests.

– It’s considered an involuntary termination of parental rights if the biological parent does not consent to the legal motion.

For example, if a third party tried to terminate your parental rights to gain access, you have the ability to fight back against the claim. Like voluntary termination, the judge must have clear and convincing evidence that termination would be in the child’s best interests.

The Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights in Texas on an Involuntarily Basis

If a petition is brought by a qualified person other than the parent, the court must determine if there are grounds for terminating the parental rights under the Texas Family Code. Some of the grounds for termination can include the following:

  • Abandoning the child with no intent to return.
  • Contributing to an environment where the child is abused or neglected.
  • Knowingly placing the child in harmful conditions (e.g. routinely exposing them to situations involving substance abuse).
  • Not enrolling the child in school in a way that could harm the child’s development.
  • Not providing care to the child for a prolonged period of time.
  • Being absent from the child’s home without permission from the other parent or guardian.
  • Being convicted of crimes against children.
  • Knowingly engaging in criminal conduct that resulted in a conviction and being imprisoned.
  • Murdering or attempting to murder the child’s other parent.

The decision to terminate parental rights is taken very seriously by the courts. They will strive to act in the best interest of the child, but they want to be absolutely sure about any ruling that ends the relationship with one or both parents.

To protect your interests, it’s crucial to work with a family law attorney to help you form a strong legal defense as it relates to the grounds for involuntary termination.

You will want to find a family law attorney who has experience dealing with the court system, is familiar with how the law is applied to child custody legal matters, and understands how the legal system works at a local level in your county.

Parker & Aguilar is Ready to Defend Your Parental Rights

If you are concerned about a third party trying to claim grounds for termination of parental rights in Texas, we are ready to work on your behalf. The caring family law attorneys at Parker & Aguilar are experienced with these cases and know how to support you and your family.

We currently support parents in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, Galveston County, and Matagorda County. If you live in one of these counties, contact our offices ​​to discuss your case involving parental rights.

You can reach us at 979-267-7660 (Angleton office) or 281-944-5485 (Sugar Land office) to speak with a local attorney. Let’s get started on your case to help protect your relationship with your child.