Termination of parental rights in Texas is the legal process by which a court ends the official parent-child relationship between a child and his or her parent. This process should not be confused with the awarding of sole custody, which is the process by which one parent is granted guardianship of the child and decision-making responsibilities, but visitation rights of the other parent remain. Both termination and custody proceedings are initiated through a lawsuit called Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship, also known as a “SAPCR”.
Grounds for Termination
As a father, it is imperative to have complete understanding of the termination process as the consequences of this act are severe and difficult to reverse. Grounds for termination include the court’s determination that termination is in the best interest of the child, in conjunction with:
- Voluntary abandonment of the child
- Knowingly placing the child in harmful conditions
- Failing to support the child for a period of one year ending within six months of the filing of a termination SAPCR
- Failure to enroll the child in school
- Being absent from the child’s home without consent of the other parent or guardian
- An unrevoked affidavit of relinquishment on file as provided by the Texas Family Code
- Conviction or being placed on community service or deferred adjudication for crimes against children within Title 3 of the Texas Penal Code
- Having your parent-child relationship terminated with respect to another child per certain provisions of law
- Failure to complete required substance abuse treatment programs or continuing to abuse substances following the completion of such program
- Knowingly engaging in criminal conduct that results in conviction and being imprisoned or otherwise unable to care for the child for more than two years from the date of SAPCR filing
- Murder or attempted murder of the child’s other parent
Legal Challenges Facing Fathers
As a father, you must be aware of your rights as a parent, as well as defenses against potential claims to end your relationship with your child. For many men familiar with divorce or child custody disputes, it often feels as though the legal system is working against you.
Only 17.5% of fathers are designated as the custodial parent of their children following divorce. While over half of custodial mothers are awarded court-ordered child support, only around a third of custodial fathers are awarded the same –and of that third, only around 9% of fathers actually receive the court-awarded support amount. With the plethora of challenges to fathers rights in Texas, intimate understanding the family court system is a must.
Court Order Required for Termination
When defending your rights as a father, it is necessary to understand how those rights could be taken away. Termination of parental rights in Texas is only able to be effected via court
There are affidavits by which a parent may voluntarily agree to limit their parental rights. First is the Affidavit of Voluntary Relinquishment, by which the parent agrees that a court should terminate his or her interest to a child. A parent may also sign an Affidavit of Waiver of Interest, by which the parent agrees to give up any interest he or she has to a child.
Even if a father signs either of these affidavits, parental rights are actually not terminated until a judge signs a court order terminating those rights. Voluntary relinquishments on their own are insufficient to terminate fathers rights in Texas, so even if you have signed one of these affidavits, know that you still have rights prior to the issuance of a court order.
Be Informed About Protective Orders
Perhaps the single most damaging weapon that is wielded against fathers during custody disputes is the protective order. These legal orders are frequently issued by courts in situations where claims of domestic violence have been alleged. These legal orders require the subject of the order to cease acts of harm and limit contact between the alleged abuser and his or her victims.
Within the context of custody disputes, research has shown that a staggering 70% of abuse allegations are found to be unnecessary or false. Men bear the brunt of the majority of these allegations, making the defense of fathers rights in Texas even more challenging. Protective orders are far too often used as a tool to separate innocent men from their children.
In order for a protective order to be issued, a minimal “preponderance of evidence” is typically all that is required. Therefore, the claimant merely must establish that it is more likely than not that the alleged abuse took place. Since these orders are done on an emergency basis, also known as “ex parte”, the alleged abuser does not get a chance to defend himself or herself, allowing myriad opportunity for an unscrupulous claimant to take advantage of the justice system.
What to Do in the Event of a False Abuse Claim?
It is critical that fathers understand how to protect themselves against false claims of abuse in order to avoid termination of parental rights in Texas. As soon as you learn of a claim of abuse or the issuance of a protective order, it is critical to act immediately. Contact an attorney who specializes in defending fathers rights in Texas, and share with them all of the information you have regarding the claim.
Your attorney will be best suited to guide you with your defense, but will likely advise you to begin gathering evidence to present at your hearing. Texts, emails, recordings and similar materials may support your case or demonstrate the other parent’s lack of fitness to be custodian of your child. It is not uncommon for men to capture evidence showing that the other parent had been threatening to falsely claim abuse in order to gain an advantage within court proceedings or for other ulterior motives.
Most importantly, make sure to maintain your composure throughout the legal process. Avoid the temptation to lash out at your accuser in response to a false claim, and thereby establishing the poor conduct that the claimant is attempting to attach to you. Follow the protective order as directed while it is in place, and focus your energy on ways to better your situation with your children moving forward. Uphold your equanimity at court hearings and visibly show the court that you are not the abuser that you have been labeled. With the help of your attorney, you should be able to demonstrate to the court that you are a loving, supportive father who deserves parental rights and belongs in the lives of your children.
Invaluable Father-Child Bond
Too frequently the importance of a child’s bond with their father is understated. Studies have shown that fathers greatly contribute to the well-being and development of their children. When fathers are allowed to be supportive of their children and involved in their lives, language skills, social development, cognition, self-esteem and other developmental markers, show improvement.
The relationships of fathers with their children frequently set the tone for children’s relationships with others throughout their lives. Children who have good relationships with their fathers also tend to have less behavioral problems, including reduced alcohol and drug abuse issues.
If you find yourself facing termination of parental rights in Texas, make sure to find an attorney who appreciates the importance of your fatherly relationship with your child. You will need an advocate who understands the court system and is willing to fight for your rights –not just as a parent, but specifically in your infinitely important role as a father.
Protect Yourself from Termination of parental rights in Texas
Contact Ramos Law immediately if you are dealing with an issue involving potential termination of parental rights in Texas. We will vigorously defend your rights as a father and guide you through the nuanced challenges facing men during difficult child custody proceedings.