You weren’t a very good parent, and you had your parental rights terminated involuntarily. Maybe you made some bad choices or you may have just been unable to give your child the home they needed.
Until recently, the fact that your parental rights were terminated was the end of a sad story.
However, due to a change in the law, you can now have your parental rights reinstated! The road is difficult, but at least you have a road now where none existed before.
Who qualifies to get their parental rights reinstated?
Not every parent whose parental rights have been terminated can have them reinstated. There is a very specific list of qualifications, and if you do not meet all factors, then you can’t have your parental rights reinstated.
You only qualify if:
- the termination of parental rights resulted from a suit filed by the Department of Family & Protective Services (aka Child Protective Services, aka CPS);
- at least two years have passed since the issuance of the order terminating your parental rights and an appeal of the order is not pending;
- the child has not been adopted; and
- the child is not the subject of an adoption placement agreement.
If you voluntarily relinquished your parental rights, then this new law doesn’t apply to you. You can only seek to have your parental rights reinstated if your rights were involuntarily terminated.
How do you get your parental rights reinstated?
In order to get your parental rights reinstated, a sworn Petition must be filed in Court. Not only are you eligible to file this Petition, but it can also be filed by CPS and the child’s attorney ad litem.
This sworn Petition must contain:
- your name and current residence address;
- the child’s name, current residence address, and date and place of birth, if known;
- the name, current residence address, and contact information, if known, of any party who participated in the original termination hearing and has information relevant to the determination of conservatorship of, possession of, or access to the child;
- a summary of the grounds on which the court rendered the order terminating your parental rights;
- a summary statement of the facts and evidence that you believe demonstrate that you have the capacity and willingness to perform parental duties, including steps the you have taken toward personal rehabilitation since the rendition of the order terminating parental rights, including mental health and substance abuse treatment, employment, or other personal history that demonstrates rehabilitation;
- a statement by you 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 12 years of age or older; and
- a summary of all prior requests or motions for reinstatement that you have filed.
Your Petition must also have a copy of the Notice that you provided to CPS at least 45 days prior to filing the case. Filing the Petition is the easy part though because winning the hearing is the hard part.
How to win a hearing to get your parental rights reinstated
Before we discuss how to win the hearing, you first need to know how to GET a hearing. Most people don’t know this one simple step and think that the Judge automatically knows everything that everyone files in all cases. I promise that they don’t have that much free time or inclination.
After you file the Petition, you should contact the Court Coordinator and ask for a hearing date. The hearing date must be held not later than 60 days after the date that you filed the Petition.
You then submit to the Court a proposed Order Setting Hearing that the Judge will sign and you will then have served on everyone else in the case.
At the hearing, every party will have the opportunity to call witnesses and present evidence. But what you need to know is that you have the entire burden of proving your case if you want to win and have your parental rights reinstated.
You have to prove to the Court that:
- reinstatement of your parental rights is in the child’s best interests;
- at least two years have passed since issuance of the order terminating your parental rights and that 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 12 years of age or older, the child consents to the reinstatement and desires to reside with you;
- you have remedied the conditions that were grounds for rendering the order terminating your parental rights; and
- you are willing and capable of performing parental duties, including maintaining the health, safety, and welfare of the child.
If you can prove each of those things, then you’ll win your hearing and get your parental rights reinstated! But what does winning that hearing really look like?
If you win your hearing, what will the Court do?
This new law gives the Court several options after hearing your Petition. The Court can grant, deny, or delay making a decision.
If the Court grants your Petition and you get your parental rights reinstated, the Court is required to enter an Order stating that all legal rights, powers, privileges, immunities, duties, and obligations regarding the child are reinstated. The Court must also include orders with respect to custody, care, control, and support.
If the Court decides to delay making a decision, then the Court can enter a Temporary Order that gives you temporary rights but maintains CPS as the managing conservator. The Court’s Temporary Order will grant CPS the power to monitor your progress with these temporary rights. However, this Temporary Order doesn’t last long.
In entering this Temporary Order, a clock starts because these Temporary Orders will expire in 6 months.
Upon expiration of the Temporary Order, the Court must hold a hearing to determine whether to grant or deny the petition for reinstatement (again).
If you lose your hearing, is it over forever?
If the Court denies your Petition, whether at the initial hearing or following the 6-month Temporary Orders, don’t worry! In the Order of denial, the Court is required to include a provision that prohibits you from filing another Petition to have your parental rights reinstated for 12 months following the date of the Order.
That means that you can keep trying again and again until you get it right or until you no longer qualify because your child has been placed for adoption.
I know that is a scary prospect, to think about having to fight year in and year out, but what other options do you have? You need to find the will to fight against all odds if you hope to get your parental rights reinstated because your child is counting on you. If you don’t fight for your child, then who else will?
Please, don’t give up on your children because getting your parental rights reinstated might just be 12 months away.
–Authored by Matthew L. Harris, Esq.,
Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Family Law Division
1101 Broadway, Lubbock, Texas, 79401
Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479