Child abandonment is a serious issue, and Texas law treats it accordingly. Thus, you may wonder, How long does a father have to be absent to lose his rights?
An absent parent might be at risk of losing their parental rights. However, no parent loses their rights without first having a case brought against them for the termination of their parental rights. Texas courts take the termination of parental rights seriously. Below, The Larson Law Office offers some information about child abandonment and parental rights termination.
Termination of Parental Rights in Texas: Court Order
Can an absent father lose parental rights? While an absent parent may lose their rights, it doesn’t happen automatically. A parent loses their rights only after a final court order.
This means a case must be filed, served, and proven with clear and convincing evidence before a judge. A court will ultimately decide based on the child’s best interests. Only a final court order can terminate parental rights.
Grounds for Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights
How long does a father have to be absent to lose his rights? The answer depends on the circumstances. Texas law contains many possible reasons a parent could face a parental rights termination case.
Texas law sets forth numerous grounds for a court to terminate parental rights involuntarily, with varying periods of absent time depending on the circumstances. With respect to abandonment, the grounds to terminate parental rights include when the parent:
- Voluntarily leaves the child with someone who is not a parent and says they will not return;
- Voluntarily leaves the child with someone who is not a parent and is away for three months or longer;
- Voluntarily leaves the child without adequate support and is away for at least six months;
- Fails to support the child for a year;
- Voluntarily abandons the pregnant mother during the pregnancy and birth, doesn’t support the mother or child, and remains apart from the child after birth;
- Doesn’t maintain a relationship while the child is in the care of the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS); or
- Abandons the child without any identifying information.
As you can see, the length of time a parent is absent from a child’s life isn’t the only factor in these cases.
Biological Father-Specific Grounds
Additionally, an alleged biological father could lose his parental rights if he:
- Doesn’t respond to a paternity case,
- Doesn’t register with the paternity registry, or
- Registers with the paternity registry but cannot be found.
A biological father should take proactive steps if he wishes to maintain parental rights.
There are additional grounds for terminating parental rights that don’t involve abandonment. These include endangering, neglecting, or abusing the child or being convicted of a felony involving violence or the sexual abuse of children. A judge could also terminate parental rights if the parent is convicted of murdering, attempting to murder, or sexually assaulting the child’s other parent.
The Most Important Factor: Best Interest of the Child
A court makes decisions regarding a parent-child relationship, including the termination of parental rights, in light of the child’s best interest. A judge will consider the following factors for determining the child’s best interests:
- The child’s wishes,
- The child’s emotional and physical needs now and in the future,
- Any emotional or physical danger to the child now and in the future,
- The parental abilities of the person seeking guardianship,
- Programs available to promote the child’s best interest,
- The person seeking custody or DFPS’s plans for the child,
- The stability of the proposed placement or home,
- Acts or omissions of the parent that indicate an unhealthy parent-child relationship, and
- The parent’s excuses for these acts or omissions.
A judge will not terminate parental rights if it’s not in the child’s best interests.
We Can Help You Understand Your Parental Rights
Terminating parental rights is a serious and complicated legal matter. If you have questions about terminating parental rights or are facing a case, you need an advocate to fight for what’s best for you and your family. The attorneys at The Larson Law Office provide honest communication and personalized service to our clients. We know the ins and outs of the Texas family court system, and we can and will help you fight to protect your rights. Contact us today.