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How Can a Parent Lose Custody in Texas?

Texas courts make custody decisions based on the best interest of the child. Texas law presumes that it is in the child’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 current 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. 

Note: In Texas, a parent may lose custody of their own children even if they abuse another child in the family or the other parent of their child. 

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 may abandon their child if any of the following is true:

  • A father abandons their pregnant girlfriend or wife (the child’s biological mother) during pregnancy and refuses or fails to support their child financially after childbirth.
  • A parent leaves a child anywhere without reasonable and necessary care and does not plan to return; or
  • A parent places their child to be in a situation where he or she is subject to mental or emotional injury. 

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 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 a parent 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 they are abusing illegal drugs while caring for their children. 

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 longstanding substance abuse endangers the child’s safety, the court may have grounds to terminate that parent’s custody and parental rights. 

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 the state’s homeschooling laws. 

6. Termination of parental rights

A parent loses custody rights if the court terminates their 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 a parent violates a parenting plan, visitation, or custody order, they may also lose custody of their child. For example, if the 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. 

If you cannot follow a court order for whatever reason, you may want to consider modifying the order. Seek help from a skilled family law attorney to help you request a modification. 

8. Conviction and jail time

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

Note: A parent may not lose custody rights if they are incarcerated for a short period of time. 

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.   

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 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. The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard, our family lawyers are committed to helping clients protect and regain custody rights. Call (254) 220-4225">(254) 220-4225 for a case review.

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