Grounds for Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights - Texas

Date: July 2021

Circumstances That Are Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights

Citation: Fam. Code §§ 161.001; 161.002(b); 161.003; 161.007

The court may order termination of parental rights if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the parent has done any of the following:

  • Abandoned the child
  • Knowingly allowed the child to remain in conditions or surroundings that endanger the physical or emotional well-being of the child
  • Failed to support the child in accordance with the parent's ability for 1 year
  • Voluntarily, and with knowledge of the pregnancy, abandoned the mother of the child beginning at a time during her pregnancy and continuing through the birth, failed to provide adequate support or medical care for the mother during her pregnancy, and remained apart from the child or failed to support the child since the birth
  • Been the major cause of the failure of the child to be enrolled in school as required by law or to be absent from the child's home without the consent of the parents for a substantial length of time or without the intent to return
  • Been convicted of any of the following crimes that caused the death or serious injury of a child:
    • Murder or manslaughter
    • Assault, sexual assault, aggravated assault, or aggravated sexual assault
    • Injury to a child or abandoning or endangering a child
    • Indecency with a child or prohibited sexual conduct
    • Sexual performance by a child or possession or promotion of child pornography
    • Continuous sexual abuse of a young child
    • Trafficking of persons or compelling prostitution
  • Had his or her parental rights terminated with respect to another child
  • Failed to comply with of a case plan
  • Used a controlled substance in a manner that endangered the health or safety of the child and failed to complete a court-ordered substance abuse treatment program or after completion of a treatment program, continued to abuse a controlled substance
  • Been incarcerated and unable to care for the child for 2 years
  • Been the cause of the child being born addicted to alcohol or a controlled substance
  • Voluntarily delivered the child to a designated emergency infant care provider without expressing an intent to return for the child
  • Constructively abandoned the child who has been in the custody of the Department of Family and Protective Services for no less than 6 months, and:
    • The department has made reasonable efforts to return the child to the parent.
    • The parent has not regularly visited or maintained significant contact with the child.
    • The parent has demonstrated an inability to provide the child with a safe environment.
  • Been convicted of any of the following:
    • The murder of the other parent of the child
    • The criminal attempt or solicitation to commit murder of the other parent
    • The sexual assault of the other parent of the child
  • A mental or emotional illness or a mental deficiency that renders the parent unable to provide for the physical, emotional, and mental needs of the child, and the condition, in all reasonable probability, will continue to render the parent unable to provide for the child's needs
  • Been convicted of a sexual offense and the victim of the offense became pregnant with the parent's child

The rights of an alleged father may be terminated if the following apply:

  • After being served with notice, he does not respond by timely filing a claim of paternity.
  • The child is over age 1 at the time the petition for termination is filed, he has not registered with the paternity registry, and his identity and/or location are unknown.
  • The child is under age 1 at the time the petition is filed, and he has not registered with the paternity registry.
  • He has registered with the paternity registry but the petitioner's attempt to personally serve notice at the address provided to the registry and at any other address for the alleged father known by the petitioner has been unsuccessful.

Circumstances That Are Exceptions to Termination of Parental Rights

Citation: Fam. Code § 161.001(c)-(d)

Effective September 1, 2021: Evidence of one or more of the following does not constitute clear and convincing evidence sufficient for a court to order termination of the parent-child relationship:

  • The parent homeschooled the child.
  • The parent is economically disadvantaged.
  • The parent has been charged with a nonviolent misdemeanor offense other than any of the following:
    • An offense under title 5, Penal Code (offenses against a person)
    • An offense under title 6, Penal Code (offenses against the family)
    • An offense that involves family violence
  • The parent provided or administered low-THC cannabis to a child for whom the low-THC cannabis was prescribed.
  • The parent declined immunization for the child for reasons of conscience, including a religious belief.
  • The parent allowed the child to engage in independent activities that are appropriate and typical for the child's level of maturity, physical condition, developmental abilities, or culture.

A court may not order termination based on the failure by the parent to comply with a specific provision of a court order if a parent proves by a preponderance of evidence the following:

  • The parent was unable to comply with specific provisions of the court order.
  • The parent made a good-faith effort to comply with the order and the failure to comply with the order is not attributable to any fault of the parent.

Circumstances Allowing Reinstatement of Parental Rights

Citation: Fam. Code §§ 161.302; 161.303; 161.304

Effective September 1, 2021: The following persons may file a petition requesting the court to reinstate the parental rights of a former parent whose parental rights were involuntarily terminated:

  • The department
  • The contractor with responsibility for the child
  • The child's attorney ad litem
  • The former parent

The petition for the reinstatement may be filed only if the following apply:

  • The termination of parental rights resulted from a suit filed by the department.
  • At least 2 years have passed since the issuance of the order terminating the former parent's parental rights and an appeal of the order is not pending.
  • The child has not been adopted.
  • The child is not the subject of an adoption placement agreement.

The petition must include the following:

  • A summary of the grounds on which the former parent's rights were terminated
  • A summary of the facts and evidence that the petitioner believes demonstrate that the former parent has the capacity and willingness to perform parental duties, including steps the former parent has taken toward personal rehabilitation since termination of parental rights
  • A statement of the former parent requesting the reinstatement of parental rights
  • A statement of the intent or willingness of the child to consent to the reinstatement of parental rights, if the child is age 12 or older
  • A summary of all prior requests for the reinstatement of the former parent's parental rights

Notice of hearing on the petition must be served on the following:

  • The child or the child's representative
  • The county attorney
  • The child's attorney ad litem
  • The department
  • The former parent
  • If the child is subject to the Indian Child Welfare Act, the designated Tribal service agent of the child's Tribe

A reinstatement hearing must be held within 60 days. The court may grant the petition and order the reinstatement of the former parent's parental rights only if the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence the following:

  • Reinstatement of parental rights is in the child's best interests.
  • At least 2 years have passed since the order terminating parental rights and an appeal of the order is not pending.
  • The child has not been adopted and is not the subject of an adoption placement agreement.
  • If the child is age 12 or older, the child consents to the reinstatement and desires to reside with the parent.
  • The former parent has remedied the conditions that were grounds for rendering the order terminating parental rights.
  • The former parent is willing and has the capability to perform parental duties, including maintaining the health, safety, and welfare of the child.

In determining whether to grant a petition for reinstatement of parental rights with regard to a child who is age 11 or younger, the court shall consider the child's age, maturity, and ability to express a preference and may consider the child's preference regarding the reinstatement as one factor, considered along with all other relevant factors, in making the determination.

Following the hearing, the court may render an order granting the petition, denying the petition, or deferring the decision on the petition and rendering a temporary order expiring after 6 months during which the department remains the managing conservator of the child.

If, following a hearing, the court orders reinstatement of parental rights, the court shall issue a written order stating that all legal rights, powers, privileges, immunities, duties, and obligations of the former parent regarding the child, including with respect to custody, care, control, and support, are reinstated.