What Happens in Texas When a Father Signs Away His Rights to a Child?

By Mackenzie Maxwell

Updated January 10, 2020

Father Consoling His Toddler


Biological parents in Texas typically have rights regarding their child's upbringing. For example, they have input over the child's medical, religious and educational decisions. However, some parents lose those rights either involuntarily or by choice.

Giving up parental rights in Texas is a significant and usually irreversible action. It's important for anyone involved in a custody case to understand how voluntary termination of parental rights in Texas works and what consequences it has on all parties involved.

Reasons for Giving Up Parental Rights in Texas

Parents may consider signing over parental rights in Texas for many reasons. For example, some parents relinquish their rights when their children are in foster care. Doing so can help avoid a trial for the involuntary termination of parental rights. Some biological parents do this in hopes of gaining favor with the adoptive parents and maintaining a relationship with the child.

People may also consider giving up parental rights in Texas because they feel unfit to parent. However, many people try to sign away their rights in order to get out of paying child support. This is a mistake, as the process is not so simple.

Child Support and Relinquishing Parental Rights

Many people believe that there is a simple form in which parents can sign over their rights and be free from parenting obligations, including child support. However, the voluntary termination of parental rights is not a simple process in Texas. Instead of a form, parents must relinquish through a lawsuit in court.

During the case, the parent who tries to terminate her rights must prove that it would be best for the child. Furthermore, many Texas judges refuse to voluntarily terminate a parent's rights unless another person (such as a step-parent) is planning to adopt the child.

Between the court fees and hiring an attorney, the process can be expensive. Then, the court often denies these petitions anyway. Therefore, signing over parental rights in Texas as a means of avoiding child support is usually unsuccessful.

Proving the Best Interest for the Child

The Texas Supreme Court case Holley v. Adams outlines the factors that the court must consider when deciding what is in the best interest of the child. These include, but are not limited to:

  • What the child wants.
  • The needs of the child now and in the future.
  • The parenting abilities of the people being considered.
  • The safety of the child.

If it is clear to the court that a parent wishes to relinquish solely to avoid paying child support, this does not meet the standard of being in the best interest of the child. In these cases, the court is likely to deny the petition to terminate.

Other Options for Parents Struggling to Pay Child Support

If terminating parental rights is not in the best interest of the child, parents have other options when it comes to child support payments and taking care of the child. Parents can request a modification of the custody agreement. If the judge agrees, such a modification can change visitation times, custody details and child support payments.

Consequences of Signing Over Parental Rights in Texas

If and when a parent loses parental rights, either voluntarily or involuntarily, the parent no longer has any rights or obligations to the child. As such, the parent will no longer have visitation rights, input on the child's upbringing or rights to make medical decisions.

At this time, the parent is also no longer financially responsible for the child. While this means that the parent will not need to pay any further child support, he may still owe back pay for the time before the rights were terminated. In some cases, the child also loses the right of inheritance from the parent.