Termination of a Father's Parental Rights in Texas

By Erin Carson

The Texas Family Code provides explicit guidance to the termination of parental rights in the state. The establishment of the Paternity Registry in 1997 encourages men to be financially responsible for children born out of wedlock or risk the termination of their rights. Termination of a father's parental rights in Texas is irrevocable.


The termination or severing of parental rights by a state is when the state permanently ends the parental rights of a mother, father or both. Termination of parental rights can be involuntary, but there can also be a voluntary relinquishment of parenthood. The Texas Family Code Chapter 161 of Title 5 outlines the situations in which parental rights can be involuntarily terminated. These include abandonment of the child, incapacity to care for a child because of drug or alcohol use, endangering the well-being of a child, an inability to properly care for the child because of incarceration, an inability to locate the biological father despite making an attempt by searching the paternity registry and failure to support a child.
The rights of an alleged biological father can be terminated if he fails to register with the Texas paternity register or if he doesn't respond to the notice of termination of parental rights by filing a counterclaim or an admission of paternity.

Time Frame

The termination of a father's parental rights is necessary before an adoption can be made final. In Texas, a biological father who is not married to a child's mother needs to register his name on a paternity registry within 31 days of the child's birth to prevent the state from involuntarily terminating his rights. If he fails to do so, the Texas Family Code Section 160.402 asserts that the father does not have to be notified as to whether his child is adopted or his rights are terminated.


The paternity registry in Texas is generally unknown to people outside of the legal profession. According to the Texas Family Code, a father's rights to his out-of-wedlock child can be terminated even if he is cohabiting with and supporting the mother. It's crucial that any unwed father who wants a role in his child's life file a "Notice of Intent to Claim Paternity."


Many people believe that a biological father can voluntarily terminate his paternal rights and avoid paying child support. That is untrue because there are specific criteria involved in terminating rights, either voluntarily or involuntarily. The criteria are set forth in the Texas Code, and terminating to avoid paying support is not one of them. Unless a step-parent or another entity legally adopts the child, a legally acknowledged biological father must pay child support.


DNA testing has led to new scenarios that stretch the limitations of current laws and has forced the Texas Family Code to adapt. For example, a baby in Texas is legally considered to be the child of the man to whom the biological mother is married. Before paternity testing became available and reliable, that law helped protect women and children alike. In today's society, it introduces new difficulties into paternity suits and adoption proceedings because an alleged biological father has rights and can place his name on the paternity registry and sue for custody of a child.

About the Author

A former children's librarian and teacher living in Dallas, Erin Carson loves to share her knowledge of both literature and parenting through her writing. Carson has a master's degree in library science and a bachelor's degree in English literature. As a freelance writer, Carson has published numerous articles on various websites.