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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2014

    Default Terminating Parental Rights in Texas

    My question involves paternity law for the State of: Texas

    Hello All,

    I signed an AOP with my then fiance back at the beginning of November when our daughter was born. He has since jumped ship and has seen her twice since she was born, and had very little to do with her during his visits. He's first said that he will let me have sole custody, but later came back and said he would let me have primary custody, and that there's nothing he can do legally until she's nine months old.

    He has moved to another city and is living with is parents who are on the brink of divorce, and all three are emotionally unstable and abusive. He makes a living by buying and selling used furniture which is very unstable financially, and refuses to find other means of income. He has paid in total less than $1000 toward my daughter expenses of nearly $10,000 and my own medical expenses for her birth, and toward raising her. He has a past criminal/drug record, and at the time of my daughter's birth was also married illegally to help in gaining someone their citizenship status. My daughter doesn't know him at all, and he has no previous children or any experience in raising children whatsoever. His emotional abuse towards me has often been when it's just the two of us, so any evidence of such abuse would be a "he said/she said" case. I believe with is previous history, his current living and financial situation, as well as his already limited involvement in the raising of our daughter, that it would be in my daughter's best interest that he not pop in and out of her life. I am more than willing to not go after him for child support and believe that it is best if I raise her on my own until someone adopts her as his daughter in the future.

    I have researched termination of paternity in Texas and have found that it is very difficult, if not nearly impossible for paternity to be terminated both voluntarily or involuntarily. I have also found that there are strict statues which must be proven before paternity can be terminated involuntarily (ex. abandonment of the child for at least six months, history of abuse, incarceration, etc.). In addition, I found the "tender age doctrine" that states that in the state of Texas a child is to remain with their mother until the age of three, and no custody cases will be considered until then.

    With that said, my questions are:

    1) With the given information, would I possibly have a case against him, or at least be on my way to having a case?
    2) Is it possible for rights to be voluntarily terminated if there is no parent to take his place?
    3) Does the tender age doctrine hold true, or are there more factors to consider?

    I will be seeking legal advice, I'm just curious and impatient to see what I have to work with here. Any help/advice would be greatly appreciated!

    Thank you!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Somewhere near Canada

    Default Re: Terminating Parental Rights in Texas

    1. Nope - the state might have a case in the future, but nothing right now.

    2. Yes, it is possible in Texas. Voluntary TPR is not contingent on a stepparent adoption in Texas.

    3. Not in the slightest. In fact, there are no states that actually - even if it appears on the books - enforce a "tender years" doctrine. Fathers regularly can, and do, get joint or even sole custody of their infant children.

    Mom, I know that it's frustrating. But the reality is, unless the court actually says "no visitation at all" (and they're not going to say that unless he has severely abused the child), he can come in and out of her life. Is it fair? No, not really. But is it legal? Completely.

    What you can (and perhaps should) do at this point is file to establish paternity and custody yourself.

    The reason that there are - for all intents and purposes - no states which stick with the "tender years" doctrine, is that the tide is finally changing and fathers are being recognized as an integral part of life of their children. This is actually a good thing.

    I can't emphasize this enough, Mom - court orders protect all of you. Get custody and visitation set up, and yes, child support too.

    Now in terms of a voluntary TPR, Texas is somewhat unique. It is one of a teeny handful (there are only two from memory) of states where both parents can submit a petition to the court which will terminate the rights of one parent. It's not necessarily easy, but it's possible. I must urge you though to reconsider. Once it's done, there's no do-over.

    You're still a new Mommy to your child and you're going through enough upheaval as it is. Give it some time. Dad might turn out to be the best Daddy on the planet.

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