Terminating Parental Rights


It’s a Dirty Deed

Any time I discuss the topic of terminating parental rights, many people become visibly uncomfortable.

Some see it as a dirty job because they envision a parent getting out of their parental duties scot-free. However, sometimes it is a necessary stepping stone to strengthen a family bond.

How it Strengthens the Family Bond

With the current marriage failure rate hovering right around 50%, it is no surprise that many step-parents are developing close bonds with their step-children, especially when the non-custodial parent is less than ambitious in their duties. When you cross over into deadbeat parent territory (haven’t seen or communicated

with the child in years) then terminating their rights and pursing an adoption may help to strengthen that familial bond.

Not all terminations of parental rights are done with the thought of immediately pursuing an adoption. Sometimes parental rights are terminated just because it is best for the child.

Two Ways to Terminate Parental Rights

Everything we do is “in the best interest of the child,” and sometimes it is in the child’s best interests to have their parent’s rights terminated. These usually stem from some incident or ongoing behavior. Their rights can be terminated Voluntarily or Involuntarily.

Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights

By far the simplest method of terminating the parent-child relationship is when the parent does so voluntarily. I won’t go in depth of why a parent would do this, but I’ve seen instances where they do it because they know the child is better off or when they know that their rights are going to be terminated involuntarily anyway and they want to save everyone the trouble.

Parents seeking this route will sign a document called a Mother’s/Father’s Affidavit for Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental Rights. In Texas, this document is about 6 pages long and contains many provisions that are required by law. It must be acknowledged by two witnesses and signed in front of a Notary Public.

Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights

This method is usually the messiest and the costliest of the two. An involuntary termination requires a hearing before a judge and/or jury where the Petitioner has to prove the Grounds for termination and that it is in the best interest of the child to terminate rights.

The Family Code provides a laundry list of grounds that would support termination, such as: abandoning the child without providing adequate support, knowingly placing the child in danger, abandoning the pregnant mother, and many others. (Fam. Code § 161.001)

If you are considering attempting an involuntary termination, I HIGHLY recommend that you speak with your attorney and weigh all of your options instead of trying it alone.

–Authored by Matthew L. Harris, Esq.,


Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Family Law Division

1001 Main Street, Suite 200, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3309

Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479

[email protected]