Termination of Parental Rights

Severing the parent-child relationship is very hard to do in Texas, as it should be.  Most family law judges equate the termination of the parent-child relationship to be equivalent to the death penalty.  If your parental rights are terminated, you are no longer the parent of the child or children.  You don’t have the right to see them, raise them, discipline them, or even to contact them.  A new birth certificate can even be issued, with your name removed from the document.  It is very, very serious and the courts treat termination cases as such.

It is not uncommon for a parent to seek to have his or her own parental rights terminated.  Why?  The most common reason is to try to get out of paying child support. While some judges used to allow this, most Texas judges now no longer permit it.  The only sure way to voluntarily relinquish your parental rights is if there is someone else (e.g., the kids’ new stepfather) waiting in the wings to adopt the child.

GROUNDS FOR TERMINATION

Tex. Fam. Code Sec. 161.001.  INVOLUNTARY TERMINATION OF PARENT-CHILD RELATIONSHIP.  The court may order termination of the parent-child relationship if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence:

(1)        that the parent has:

(A)       voluntarily left the child alone or in the possession of another not the parent and expressed an intent not to return;

(B)       voluntarily left the child alone or in the possession of another not the parent without expressing an intent to return, without providing for the adequate support of the child, and remained away for a period of at least three months;

(C)       voluntarily left the child alone or in the possession of another without providing adequate support of the child and remained away for a period of at least six months;

(D)       knowingly placed or knowingly allowed the child to remain in conditions or surroundings which endanger the physical or emotional well-being of the child;

(E)       engaged in conduct or knowingly placed the child with persons who engaged in conduct which endangers the physical or emotional well-being of the child;

(F)       failed to support the child in accordance with the parent’s ability during a period of one year ending within six months of the date of the filing of the petition;

(G)       abandoned the child without identifying the child or furnishing means of identification, and the child’s identity cannot be ascertained by the exercise of reasonable diligence;

(H)       voluntarily, and with knowledge of the pregnancy, abandoned the mother of the child beginning at a time during her pregnancy with the child and continuing through the birth, failed to provide adequate support or medical care for the mother during the period of abandonment before the birth of the child, and remained apart from the child or failed to support the child since the birth;

(I)        contumaciously refused to submit to a reasonable and lawful order of a court under Subchapter D, Chapter 261;

(J)        been the major cause of:

(i)         the failure of the child to be enrolled in school as required by the Education Code; or

(ii)        the child’s absence from the child’s home without the consent of the parents or guardian for a substantial length of time or without the intent to return;

(K)       executed before or after the suit is filed an unrevoked or irrevocable affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights as provided by this Chapter of the Family Code;

(L)       been convicted or has been placed on community supervision, including deferred adjudication community supervision, for being criminally responsible for the death or serious injury of a child under the following sections of the Texas Penal Code or adjudicated under Title 3 for conduct that caused the death or serious injury of a child and that would constitute a violation of one of the following Texas Penal Code sections:

(i)         Section 19.02 (murder);

(ii)        Section 19.03 (capital murder);

(iii)       Section 19.04 (manslaughter);

(iv)       Section 21.11 (indecency with a child);

(v)        Section 22.01 (assault);

(vi)       Section 22.011 (sexual assault);

(vii)      Section 22.02 (aggravated assault);

(viii)     Section 22.021 (aggravated sexual assault);

(ix)       Section 22.04 (injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual);

(x)        Section 22.041 (abandoning or endangering child);

(xi)       Section 25.02 (prohibited sexual conduct);

(xii)      Section 43.25 (sexual performance by a child);

(xiii)     Section 43.26 (possession or promotion of child pornography); and

(xiv)     Section 21.02 (continuous sexual abuse of young child or children);

(M)      had his or her parent-child relationship terminated with respect to another child based on a finding that the parent’s conduct was in violation of Paragraph (D) or (E) or substantially equivalent provisions of the law of another state;

(N)       constructively abandoned the child who has been in the permanent or temporary managing conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services or an authorized agency for not less than six months, and:

(i)         the department or authorized agency has made reasonable efforts to return the child to the parent;

(ii)         the parent has not regularly visited or maintained significant contact with the child; and

(iii)       the parent has demonstrated an inability to provide the child with a safe environment;

(O)       failed to comply with the provisions of a court order that specifically established the actions necessary for the parent to obtain the return of the child who has been in the permanent or temporary managing conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services for not less than nine months as a result of the child’s removal from the parent under Chapter 262 for the abuse or neglect of the child;

(P)       used a controlled substance, as defined by Chapter 481, Health and Safety Code, in a manner that endangered the health or safety of the child, and:

(i)         failed to complete a court-ordered substance abuse treatment program; or

(ii)        after completion of a court-ordered substance abuse treatment program, continued to abuse a controlled substance;

(Q)       knowingly engaged in criminal conduct that has resulted in the parent’s:

(i)         conviction of an offense; and

(ii)        confinement or imprisonment and inability to care for the child for not less than two years from the date of filing the petition;

(R)       been the cause of the child being born addicted to alcohol or a controlled substance, other than a controlled substance legally obtained by prescription, as defined by Section 261.001;

(S)       voluntarily delivered the child to a designated emergency infant care provider under Section 262.302 without expressing an intent to return for the child; or

(T)       been convicted of:

(i)         the murder of the other parent of the child under Section 19.02 or 19.03, Penal Code, or under a law of another state, federal law, the law of a foreign country, or the Uniform Code of Military Justice that contains elements that are substantially similar to the elements of an offense under Section 19.02 or 19.03, Penal Code;

(ii)        criminal attempt under Section 15.01, Penal Code, or under a law of another state, federal law, the law of a foreign country, or the Uniform Code of Military Justice that contains elements that are substantially similar to the elements of an offense under Section 15.01, Penal Code, to commit the offense described by Subparagraph (i); or

(iii)       criminal solicitation under Section 15.03, Penal Code, or under a law of another state, federal law, the law of a foreign country, or the Uniform Code of Military Justice that contains elements that are substantially similar to the elements of an offense under Section 15.03, Penal Code, of the offense described by Subparagraph

(i); and

(2)  that termination is in the best interest of the child.

Are you in a position where you think that you may be eligible to terminate someone’s parental rights, using the statute set out above?  You should consult with an attorney to see if your case does fit within the parameters of this statute!

This article is not intended to be legal advice and is not a substitute for legal representation by an attorney. You are encouraged to seek the advice of your own attorney to answer any specific legal questions you may have.  Janis Alexander Cross of Buckner & Cross, L.L.P. would be happy to talk with you to discuss your legal options!

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