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Termination of Parental Rights

Termination of parental rights are not ordered lightly. They are the “death penalty” of family law cases. Once ordered, there is a small window to appeal, after which, it is final and cannot be reversed or set aside. Because of this, the Judge in your case will be very careful to make sure that termination of parental rights is absolutely the correct decision to make, otherwise, they will not grant it. There are two basic ways to terminate parental rights-voluntarily and involuntarily. In either case, the ultimate decision is based on whether the termination is in the best interest of the child.

Another type of termination is based on genetics and/or fraud. In the event that you believe you are not biologically related to a child (except in cases of surrogacy, gestational agreements, or in-vitro fertilization), you may be able to terminate your parental rights simply by asking a court of competent jurisdiction and having a genetic test performed. In the event it is determined you are not genetically related to the child, you may be able to have your parental rights terminated. It is imperative that you seek counsel immediately, as there are deadlines in these type of cases. See here for more information on this topic.


Families are complex and fluid. There are often times that children grow up with a step-parent that they view more as a father or mother than their biological parent. Sometimes this has nothing to do with the biological parent-sometimes it does. Oftentimes everyone, including the biological father or mother, recognizes that a termination and adoption would be in the best interest of the child.

In these cases, where everyone agrees that the biological father's or mother's rights should be terminated so that someone else can step in to that parent's shoes, it is typically easier for the biological parent whose rights will be terminated to execute an Affidavit of Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights. This is a very powerful and impactful document and should not be executed without a lot of thought and discussion.

Once the affidavit is executed, the execution itself can be used as grounds for terminating that parent's rights, even if that parent changes his or her mind later. If the affidavit is executed, it typically includes a clause that allows the person seeking adoption to stand in as a temporary managing conservator and allows the termination and adoption to proceed without any further notice to the person executing the affidavit.


Sometimes a biological parent's rights may need to be terminated, but they may not want that to happen, either because they don't want to lose access to his or child, or they are just spiteful, or somewhere in-between. In these cases, there are a laundry list of reasons why a Judge may be able to involuntarily terminate a parent's rights. Unfortunately, it is sometimes possible that you may be able to prove one or even two or three of these reasons to terminate and the termination may still not be granted. This is because another factor in terminating a parent's rights is whether or not the termination is in the best interest of the child. This makes it difficult sometimes for a judge to terminate, even if faced with evidence that the rights may be terminated under the Texas Family Code, if the termination may leave a child with only one parent, the Judge may find that it is not in the child's best interest.

Non-Genetic Father

A (relatively) new aspect of termination is when a father finds out he isn't biologically related to a child. This is usually a husband who's wife has become pregnant and the husband doesn't find out it's not his until later; or, when a woman convinces a man that she is pregnant with his child, even if it's not actually his. In either of these circumstances, the Texas Family Code now allows a man who finds out later that he is not biologically related to a child to petition a court for a genetic test and to terminate his paternal rights.