Can a father terminate his parental rights in Texas?
For some, terminating parental rights in Texas is done with the best interests of the child in mind. For others, it is to avoid paying child support. The good news is that the answer to the question “Can a father terminate his parental rights in Texas?” is yes, but not without meeting a rigorous burden of proof and a receiving Texas court order terminating parental rights; something almost impossible to do unless there is another parent who will also be adopting the child into a two-parent family. Unfortunately, it is very common for the obligor parent (the parent responsible for paying child support) to threaten to ‘give up their rights in an effort to avoid paying child support. The good news is that it is very hard for this threat to become a reality.
It is critical to note that once parental rights in Texas have been terminated, they cannot be reinstated.
There are two basic ways for parental rights to be terminated. The first is voluntary and the second is involuntary. For voluntary termination of parental rights in Texas, there are two basic methods. The first is by an Affidavit of Voluntary Relinquishment. This is when a parent agrees that the court should terminate their rights as a parent. Often, this can be when the parent has no financial means of supporting a child (perhaps due to severe illness, drug dependency, incarceration, or if the child is in the process of being adopted). The second is an Affidavit of Waiver of Interest which is very similar to the above. Either way, with voluntary termination of parental rights or through a waiver of interest, the court must find that the requesting parent has met their burden of proof and it must be in the best interest of the child.
The second method as mentioned above is involuntary termination of parental rights. Often the court sees these cases when there is abuse or abandonment. To better understand the differences between voluntary and involuntary termination of parental rights, please read our article Termination of Parental Rights in Texas: Voluntary vs. Involuntary which explains, in greater detail, the process.
While a parent can complete and sign one of the above affidavits, no parental rights are terminated (and child support would still be due), until a court has validated the request and signed the court order to terminate parental rights. In Texas, nearly all (if not all) judges will decline a termination from an obligor (a parent responsible for child support payments) unless there is also another person who is adopting the parent. For the court to grant an order for voluntary termination of parental rights in Texas, the following most basic conditions must be met, pursuant to Texas Family Code 161:
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;