Friday, August 28, 2015

What is child abandonment in the State of Texas?

I get asked this question almost weekly from folks.

So I looked it up in the Texas Family Code.

Chapter 262 - Procedures in Suit by Governmental Entity
Subchapter D - Emergency Possession of Certain Abandoned Children
Section 262.301-307

This is the only chapter that the General Index of the Texas Family Code addresses "abandoment of children".

It basically covers what happens when a child is abandonment at a hospital or other emergency care provider.

I often ask a follow-up question when I'm asked this question - what do you hope to accomplish?

The answers are basically one of the 4 below:

1. I want to terminate his/her parental rights.

Ok. Generally in Texas (not 100% -- but it's not easy) a judge will not terminate a parent's rights unless there is a new person in the wings ready, willing and able (must be able to pass a criminal background check and the child has to want to be adopted by the person if the child is old enough to speak).

In Texas, normally a fiance cannot adopt. If you want the new person to adopt then get married and wait approximately a year.  Why? Because if the new person adopts and then you divorce since that person is now the "father/mother" you will be co-parenting with that ex-spouse.  And that spouse would be paying child support and carrying health insurance just like the prior parent did.

Most courts frown on "bastardizing" children. If you were to die then your child would be an orphan without anyone to raise the child.  Judges don't like leaving a child a possible orphan.

If the parent is current on child support then it is very hard to terminate a person's parental rights.

Parental rights are taken seriously in Texas and there are several hurdles to overcome this basic human rights presumption.

Termination normally requires a lot of work and an attorney to represent the child's interests. You have to pay for it. It is not cheap. Most attorneys that do this sort of work charge several thousand dollars. I normally warn people that if they don't have $5,000 for legal fees and expenses then they need to think a long time before filing a lawsuit to terminate parental rights.

I'm not saying it's not impossible -- but it's not easy.

Also, merely because you want to terminate your parental rights a judge will probably not do it.
Both parents are supposed to financially support their children.

2. I want to make all the decisions regarding the child.

Again, most judges expect parents to co-parent with the other parent.  You might be apart but it does not mean that the other parent is "forgotten".

The child is 50% you and 50% of the other parent.

I have seen in some pretty horrible custody cases where a judge will change custody if one parent refuses to co-parent effectively with the other parent. Again,. it's not easy to lose custody but it has been done in Texas courts.

3. I want him/her out of my life.

See #2 above.
That is not a valid argument.

4. He/She is difficult and is "controlling".

See #2 above.
This is not a valid argument.
If the other parent is "controlling" there are options like for communication between the parents to avoid nasty and hostile communications.

You might also seek counseling to learn how to work with difficult, controlling people.

In summary, abandonment is a term that lay people use but that family law attorneys rarely use.

If you need more information, you need to schedule a meeting with an attorney in person to discuss your options.