How to Win a Termination of Parental Rights Case

Some custody court cases require a drastic measure, such as terminating someone’s parental rights. It is a difficult decision to request a termination of the parental rights of your child’s other parent but sometimes necessary.

What Is a Termination of Parental Rights Case?

Parental rights termination is a legal process when a judge ends the parent-child relationship between a child and one or both of the child’s parents. This means the terminating parent has no legal rights to the child, essentially no visitation of any kind.

Who Can File a Termination?

Either parent may request termination of parental rights. You must meet legal requirements if you file, so it isn’t easy.

You can file a termination of parental rights case whether you are or aren’t the child’s parent if you are:

  • A person who a court has ordered to visit the child;
  • The man claiming to be the biological father;
  • DFPS placed the child in your home for a minimum of 12 months before you file your termination case;
  • Potential adoptive parents who have been granted standing;
  • Grandparent, great-grandparent, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew of the child;
  • Both parents have died;
  • The parents, surviving parent, or managing conservator agree;
  • There is a significant risk that the child’s current circumstances will harm their physical health or emotional development;
  • The child has been in your custody, control, or possession for at least six months ending no more than 90 days before you file a termination case with the court;
  • An affidavit of relinquishment or written consent for adoption designates you as the managing conservator of the child; and
  • When you file the termination case, you and the child’s parent, guardian, or conservator have lived together for at least six months, and there has been no death of either.

When to Begin a Parental Rights Termination Case

It is generally possible to terminate parental rights before or after a child is born.

However, it is often the reason why someone would ask a judge to look at getting parental rights removed that determines (and often shortens) the timeline of when to file. For example:

  • When a parent fails to provide support for a child for a year, a termination case can be filed no later than six months after the parent begins to provide support;
  • A man must file a mistaken paternity case within two years of finding out or having reason to believe that he is not the child’s father; and
  • Foster parents with possession of a child for at least 12 months must file a termination case no later than 90 days after their possession ends.

Reasons for Terminating Parental Rights

There are some key cases when the termination of parental rights is a required legal action:

Abuse or neglect of the child

Parents may have their parental rights terminated when they are accused of serious abuse or neglect.

Failure to pay child support

Under a court order or divorce agreement, a parent with custody can terminate the rights of the other parent who fails to pay child support.

Leaving a child in foster care for more than 12 months

The removal of a child from a parent’s home or leaving the child in foster care for over a year without demonstrating that the conditions that led to the removal of the child have been corrected may constitute the termination of parental rights.

Paternity is not established

An unmarried father of a child can lose parental rights if he fails to establish paternity, legalize the child by petition or marriage, or fails to financially support the child and mother. There may be things you can do if you’re wondering how to stop termination of parental rights, however. See below.


Terming parental rights based on dependency occurs when the parent cannot provide care or supervision for the child, where the child is considered a “dependent juvenile.” This may include parents who are incapable due to mental illness or addiction, which impairs the parent’s ability to parent effectively.


Parents who abandon a child for more than six months (or an infant for more than 60 days) can lose their parental rights. Abandonment is the act of giving up parental duties and claims. There is more to it than simple neglect.

Committing a violent felony

Parental rights may be lost if you commit certain violent felonies. It includes any sort of violence such as killing, attempting to kill, or assaulting a child of the other parent or another child living in the home.

Also read:How Does a Restraining Order Affect Custody? 

Domestic violence between intimate partners and spouses has become a prevalent problem in the United States. According to the Center f...

How to Respond to a Termination of Parental Rights Cases

If you’re faced with this situation, you may be wondering how to fight termination of parental rights. The steps include:

Read the papers

Read the papers the other parent filed. Do not worry, the judge has not yet ordered anything; these papers merely tell you what the other parent is seeking and when the hearing will take place. 

Fill out an answer

You will need to respond to the petition by filing an answer. This will tell the judge and the other parent whether you agree or disagree with the petition.

File the answer

Then you must file your answer with the family court. It typically costs around $220 to file your response and can usually be paid by credit/debit cards. In the event you cannot afford the filing fee, you can ask the court to waive it.

Serve the answer

The petitioner who filed the case against you must receive a copy of your answer after you complete the steps on this page. After you file these papers, it is your responsibility to make sure the petitioner receives the paperwork. 

To prove you properly served, the petitioner was properly served, a Certificate of Service with the court.

Go to the hearing

The Notice of Hearing has the court date.  Make sure you attend.

How to Win a Termination of Parental Rights Case: 5 Tips

The following pieces of advice will help you to increase your chances for success:

Evaluate what went wrong

Judges must act in the child’s best interest. Assessing what factors might have contributed to the judge’s decision can help you determine what changes can reverse it. Discuss with your lawyer whether parenting classes or addiction programs can help you. Fix your home if necessary.

Seek legal counsel

You will need an experienced family law attorney if you want to win back custody of your children. 

Explore contingencies

Check to see if any special actions are necessary for the reinstatement of custody. You may be required to attend counseling, drug or alcohol treatment, or mediation, for instance.

Request an evaluation

You should ask the judge for an in-home child custody evaluation once you have hired a lawyer and completed any steps the court requires. It could help you win back custody if the court receives an up-to-date assessment of your home. 

Follow court orders

It is beneficial for you to take the court’s instructions very seriously. Attend all hearings and do not reschedule appointments with your child’s guardian ad litem (a person representing the child’s interests) or a court-appointed mediator.

Stick to the schedule set by the court. Make sure you comply if you are to conduct visits at a designated area and/or under supervision.

Be patient and compliant

Make sure you exercise your right to visitation and parenting time while you wait for your child custody arrangement to be re-evaluated. Maintain perspective instead of arguing with the child’s current custodian when you are in their presence. Avoid aggravating the situation.

Final Remarks

Custody can change. Child custody loss is stressful. Reinstating custody and/or visitation is possible. You need to work on yourself and your situation with the help of a lawyer, therapist, or another support system.

Article by James Finsweet

James Finsweet is a Head of legal department in LawBrother Ltd. At Lawrina, James contributes his experience in law practice and shares opinions on law regulations and news.

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