Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Termination of Parental Rights in the State of Texas

The termination of parental rights is a decision that is not taken lightly by the Texas family courts.  

In fact, the person whose rights are going to be taken away is given every opportunity to try to maintain them. Being a parent is a fundamental right in the US and courts frown on removing a person's parental rights.

When a parent’s rights are terminated, that individual’s parental duties cease as well.  The parent becomes a "stranger" to the child. They have no rights to ever see the child again until the child is 18.  However, when the child becomes an adult at 18 then the child can reach out to them.

Therefore, the family courts must have clear and convincing evidence that certain events have occurred before parental rights will be terminated, and the parental duties will end.

Due to several reversal of cases many years ago where a person's parental rights were re-instated by a higher court, the trial court judges bend over backward now to make sure everything is done properly to avoid appeal. It destroyed several children that were returned to their bio parent many years after the termination was done -- the kids were "ripped away" from the only family they had known and placed with the bio parent. At least one judge told me he would never ever have that happen again as long as he was on the bench! He saw the destruction of the children first hand and it impacted him years later. 

Many judges will not terminate a parent's parental rights - why? Because if the one parent left dies then the child is an orphan. Sometimes a bad parent is better than no parent.

If a person has made bad decisions such as drugs, alcohol, driving drunk with the kid in the vehicle, shop-lifting with the child, child endangerment, etc. the parent might have their rights limited and their visits supervised.
Many large counties in Texas have agencies that supervise visits. Normally the other parent does not do the supervising.

I've seen the judge on very rare occasions make a list of things that a parent must accomplish before any visitation of any kind occurs - such as successfully complete a long drug treatment, successfully complete anger management classes, complete some intensive parenting classes, random drug tests for 1-2 years, etc.  But recognize that this limited visitation is rare -- normally the person came to court drunk, stoned, yelled at the judge, threatened to kill the anger management Executive Director, got thrown out of supervised visitation due to their bad behavior, current on probation for injury to the child in question, or something similar. Being a "jerk" is not enough!

If a parent has abandoned the child and has expressed no intent to return, the courts may decide to terminate the parent’s rights.  Additionally, if a parent either places or allows the child to stay in an environment that is dangerous, parental rights may be terminated.  

The family courts will also consider whether the parent has stopped supporting the child, whether the parent has been convicted of a crime involving the harm of a child, and whether the parent has signed an affidavit that expresses a desire to have parental rights terminated.  
Other events may also be considered.

If the family court determines that grounds for termination has occurred, the parent no longer has an obligation to support the child.  This means that any child support orders will cease, and the parent may not be ordered to pay support in the future.

If you have any questions, talk to an experienced family law attorney in your county. Each judge is different (they are human beings with their preferences) and each case must be presented in such a way that it will impact the judge. 

Merely being a bad spouse or having had an affair(s) is not grounds to terminate. 

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