How Can a Parent Lose Custody in Texas?

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Brett Pritchard Law

Updated on August 24, 2022

Texas courts make custody decisions based on the best interests of the children involved. Texas law presumes that it is in children’s best interests to have frequent and continuing contact with both parents. However, in some cases, a court may take away a parent’s custody rights.

Read on to find out when and how a parent can lose custody rights in Texas. Speak with a Harker Heights child custody lawyer to understand your rights and explore the implications of current child custody laws.

9 Reasons Parents Lose Custody of Their Children in Texas

There are nine reasons parents could lose their custody rights obtained through a separation or divorce in Texas.

1. Child Abuse

The number one reason a parent could lose custody of their children in Texas is child abuse. If a parent has physically abused their child, the court may terminate their parental rights and allow the other parent to obtain full custody rights. In Texas, having full custody is known as sole managing conservatorship.

When a parent is accused of child abuse, the Child Protective Services (CPS) might get involved to investigate complaints of abuse. In Texas, parents may lose custody of their own children even if they abuse another child in the family or the other parent of their children.

2. Abandonment

Texas law recognizes several forms of abandonment that may result in the termination of a parent’s custody rights. Under Texas Penal Code § 22.041, a parent has abandoned their child if any of the following are true:

  • A father abandons his pregnant girlfriend or wife (the child’s biological mother) during pregnancy and refuses or fails to support the child financially after childbirth.

  • A parent leaves a child anywhere without reasonable and necessary care and does not plan to return.

  • A parent places his or her child to be in a situation where he or she is subject to mental or emotional injury.

If your spouse has abandoned you and your children, contact a lawyer right away to get the legal protection you need.

3. Child Neglect

Texas law defines the term “child neglect” as follows:

  • Failing to provide a child with shelter, food, clothing, hygiene, and other basic needs

  • Failing to provide adequate medical or dental care for a child, which creates a substantial risk of bodily injury, disfigurement, or death

  • Placing a child in or failing to remove him or her from a situation where the child is exposed to a significant risk of physical, emotional, or mental harm

If the court finds evidence that parents abandoned or neglected their child, it may terminate their custody rights.

4. Substance Abuse

The court might take away a biological mother’s rights if the baby was born addicted to drugs or suffered withdrawal symptoms because the mother consumed illegal drugs during her pregnancy.

A parent who is suffering from substance abuse could also lose custody rights if he or she is abusing illegal drugs while caring for their children. (For more information, read “What Can I Do if Child Protective Services (CPS) Requires a Drug Test?”)

When the court believes that a parent is suffering from substance abuse, it may order the parent to seek drug rehabilitation treatment to regain custody rights. If a parent receives the treatment but goes back to abusing drugs after that, the court may terminate the parent’s custody rights permanently.

If a parent’s long-standing substance abuse endangers the child’s safety, the court may have grounds to terminate that parent’s custody and parental rights. If this is the situation your children find themselves in, contact a custody lawyer to discuss your case.

5. Educational Neglect

Under Texas law, parents risk losing their custody rights if they keep their children out of school or engage in other forms of “educational neglect.” The term educational neglect refers to a parent’s failure or refusal to provide their child with basic needs regarding education and school.

However, homeschooling is not illegal and does not count as educational neglect as long as the parent follows Texas homeschooling laws.

6. Termination of Parental Rights

A parent loses custody rights if the court terminates his or her parental rights for another child. If the court terminated your parental rights for one child, but you are seeking custody of another child, it is vital to discuss your options with a Harker Heights custody lawyer.

7. Violation of Court Orders

Following a separation or divorce, Texas family courts may issue various court orders regarding child custody. For example, the court may order a parent to undergo drug rehabilitation to be awarded custody rights. Failure to follow a court order may result in the loss of custody rights.

If parents violate a parenting plan, visitation, or custody order, they may also lose custody of their child. For example, if your custody order requires you to return a child to the other parent on Sunday, but you fail to do so, the court may hold you in contempt of court and take away your custody rights.

If you cannot follow a court order for whatever reason, you may want to consider modifying the custody order. If you are interested in requesting a modification, seek help from a skilled family law attorney.

8. Conviction and Jail Time

Parents may lose their custody rights if they have been convicted of a serious crime and have been imprisoned for a long period of time. However, depending on the conviction and the prison sentence, a parent may be able to regain their custody rights after completing the sentence.

9. Child Alienation

The term “child alienation” is a term used to describe a situation where one parent attempts to negatively influence their child’s relationship with the other parent. If a parent turns the child against the other parent, the alienating parent may lose custody rights.

If you suspect that your spouse is causing child alienation, you may need a non-disparagement clause in your custody order. Contact a Harker Heights custody lawyer for help incorporating this agreement into your child custody arrangement.

Speak with a Harker Heights Child Custody Lawyer

Since Texas family courts make decisions based on the child’s best interests, it makes sense to consult with an experienced Harker Heights child custody attorney to discuss the “best interests of the child” standard in your specific case.

If you think that you are at risk of losing custody rights, speak with a Harker Heights child custody lawyer as soon as possible. At The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard, our family lawyers are committed to helping clients protect and regain custody rights. Call us at (254) 781-4222 or contact us online for a case review.

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