In Texas family law, few legal actions are as serious and consequential as the termination of parental rights. Termination is the process of permanently severing the legal relationship between a parent and their child. Courts only grant such orders in the most extreme circumstances, prioritizing the best interests and safety of the child above all else.
Termination of parental rights can occur voluntarily or involuntarily. Involuntary termination of parental rights can only be done by an order of the court. In the Texas Family Code there are 25 possible grounds for the involuntary termination of parental rights. These typically arises in situations of abuse, neglect, abandonment, incarceration, or extreme endangerment to the child’s physical or emotional well-being. When one of these grounds has been met, the party seeking the involuntary termination must file a petition to the court. Once the process has started it must be proven by clear and convincing evidence that one of the grounds has been satisfied and that termination is in the best interest of the children.
Parents can also voluntarily terminate their rights. This typically happens when a parent recognizes that they cannot provide a safe and stable environment for the child. Like involuntary termination it can only be done by a court order, the difference is no additional grounds are needed. It is usually done by filing a signed affidavit of voluntary relinquishment of parental rights. But much like involuntary termination the court will carefully examine the facts of the case to ensure that the termination is in the child’s best interest. The court will also want to be certain that the decision is free from coercion or duress.
Like in every other matter involving the parent-child relationship, the child’s best interests serve as the guiding principle. The court considers factors such as the child’s safety, physical and emotional needs, the stability of the proposed home, and the parent’s ability and willingness to provide for the child’s well-being. Should the court find that whatever reason termination would be detrimental for the children involved, the termination will not be granted regardless of if it is involuntary or voluntary.
And of course, the most important thing to consider when it comes to termination is that when parental rights are terminated, the parent loses all legal rights and responsibilities for the child. This includes the right to visitation and decision-making authority, not just the financial support obligations.