How Can I Terminate Another Parent’s Rights in Texas?
At Nickols & White, PLLC, we understand that children are priority #1 for any parent. Our family law attorneys often receive questions about how termination of parental rights can be achieved. Termination can be tricky, and we want our potential clients to know beforehand the complexities of a suit for termination.
Let’s start with the basics. A suit to terminate parental rights is a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (commonly referred to as a SAPCR). This type of suit can be brought at any time by the other parent, the child, someone with court-ordered visitation rights to the child, a guardian, a government entity or authorized agency such as the Department of Family and Protective Services, a licensed child-placing agency, a man alleging paternity of the child, or someone with actual care, control, and possession of the child.
A termination suit may be either voluntary or involuntary.
What if the parent agrees to sign over their rights?
This would be considered a voluntary termination, and contrary to popular belief, a parent cannot unilaterally terminate their parental rights. Termination can only be achieved by court order. Voluntary termination requires that (1) the parent sign either an affidavit of voluntary relinquishment or an affidavit waiving interest and that (2) the termination is in the “best interest of the child.”
If the parent is agreeable to termination, then the first requirement can easily be met. The latter requirement is more difficult to meet, however. In a suit for voluntary termination, the court is most concerned with financial support of the child involved. When a parent’s rights are terminated, that parent’s obligations to the child are also terminated, including his or her child support obligation. This gives judges pause when faced with the decision of whether termination is appropriate, as it is often used as a way to avoid paying child support and it becomes more probable that the child will end up on government assistance.
Judges are more willing to grant a voluntary termination if there is someone else ready to adopt the child, such as a stepparent, to ensure that the child will have the support of two instead of one.
What if the parent does not agree to the termination?
This type of termination is very difficult. Termination of parental rights is the worst punishment a parent can receive, and as such, judges do not hand out such punishment lightly. Involuntary termination may still occur, however, for a select number of specific reasons. These reasons, or grounds, all generally involve abuse, neglect, endangerment, abandonment, failure to support, or serious criminal conduct, and can be found in the Texas Family Code § 161.001.
To be successful in a suit for involuntary termination, you must (1) prove any one of these grounds by “clear and convincing evidence,” and (2) prove that termination is in the best interest of the child.
Clear and convincing evidence essentially means that what you are trying to prove is more likely true than false, and it is the general standard of proof in family law cases.
A determination of what is in the best interest of the child becomes a little more complex in an involuntary termination. Courts generally look to what are considered the Holley Factors to make this determination. These factors consist of:
- Desires of the child
- The current and future emotional and physical needs of the child
- Any current or future emotional and physical danger to the child
- Parenting ability
- Any programs available to help with parenting
- Plans already made for the child
- Stability of the home
- Acts or omissions of the parent showing an improper parent-child relationship
- Any excuses for such acts or omissions
Is there anything I should consider before deciding to seek termination?
Yes. Termination of parental rights is permanent. For a parent seeking to terminate the other parent’s rights, this irreversibly removes all support obligations owed by the terminated parent, including providing health insurance for the child.
For the parent looking to voluntarily terminate rights, there is no going back. Once you have been terminated, you no longer have any rights to see or talk to the child.
I am prepared to file a suit for termination. Now what?
Call Nickols & White, PLLC, at 817-617-7500. Succeeding in a termination suit is difficult. Let our attorneys take some of the stress off of you and advocate for you and your child. Get started on your termination suit now by callling us today!