The decision to terminate parental rights presents several complex legal issues. The state of Texas mandates that for a father to sign away his rights to his child, certain steps must be taken to formalize his decision. These requirements are put into place to protect both the rights of the father and the interests of the child.
Petition Must be Filed
When a father makes the determination that he no longer wishes to retain the rights to parent his child, a formal petition must be filed in his court of jurisdiction to voluntarily terminate his legal rights. In the petition, the father must include his full name and address, the name and address of the child, the child's age and the circumstances that have led him to petition the court to voluntarily terminate his rights under the law. At that point, a hearing will be scheduled and proper notice must be served to the custodial parent or legal guardian of the child, notifying her of the upcoming hearing's date and time.
Under Texas law, in addition to filing a formal petition before the court of jurisdiction to voluntarily terminate his legal rights to his child, the father must also complete an Affidavit of Waiver of Interest in Child. This affidavit is a sworn statement that the father has been fully counseled on the gravity of his decision and that he fully understands the results of his actions, should the court grant his petition to voluntarily terminate his parental rights.
Child Advocate Investigation
Under Texas law, a court-appointed advocate may be assigned to represent the interests of the child when a petition has been filed to voluntarily or involuntarily terminate the rights of one or both parents. The advocate typically interviews all relevant parties in the matter, including the biological parents, relatives and teachers, if appropriate, regarding the impact the termination of the parent's rights may have upon the child. The advocate then makes recommendations to the court as to what she considers to be in the child's best interest.
Formal Hearing and Determination
Once all petitions, affidavits and formal reports are filed with the court, a formal hearing must then take place before the designated family court judge in the proper court of jurisdiction. At that time, the petitioner makes a formal request before the court to officially terminate all rights to his child from that day forward. If the court agrees that voluntarily terminating the father's legal rights to the child are in the best interest to both the petitioner and the child, the petition will be granted. The father will receive a formal order releasing him from all future rights, privileges and responsibilities as father to the child. From that point on, the father may make no legal decisions on the child's behalf, claim the child on his taxes or otherwise receive benefit on the child's behalf.