When parents go through a separation or divorce, they are often concerned that they might lose custody of their child. The good news is that in Texas, as it is in most states, the law recognizes that both parents are equally important to the upbringing of a child, so it isn’t common for one parent to get sole custody and the other to get no custody barring extenuating circumstances.
Of course, the existence of those extenuating circumstances means that there are some parents who do lose custody of their children. Read through this list of ways parents might lose child custody in Texas so you can be sure to avoid them if you are seeking joint custody of your child.
There are several ways that someone can abandon their child, and this can lead to a loss of custody. First, if you abandon the biological mother during pregnancy and have chosen not to support the child after he or she was born, then that is grounds for the biological mother to seek sole custody:
- If you drop off your child at an emergency placement center and do not indicate that you plan to return for the child, then that is also a reason for your custody to be revoked.
- You might also abandon your child by not returning to pick him or her up from daycare without any indication that you are planning to return. There are time limits imposed on this type of abandonment and in general, it must persist for a minimum of three months or in some cases, six months.
Not providing for your child’s physical needs (shelter, food, hygiene, and so on) is neglect. There is a spectrum of neglect, of course, and more serious neglect will be more likely to result in the loss of custody. Not feeding your child, for example, would be taken seriously quickly, whereas not having electricity for a short period of time might not result in the immediate loss of custody.
Leaving your child with someone who is not equipped to care for your child is another form of neglect. If you leave your child with a sitter, that person needs to be responsible enough and physically and emotionally able to care for your child.
In Texas, a parent who keeps their child out of school runs the risk of losing custody. Note that this refers to truancy and not homeschooling. Homeschooling is legal in Texas. You need to be aware of and follow the homeschooling laws, however. If you simply do not send your child to school and you do not follow the laws for homeschooling or if you pull your child out of school with no other form of education, you might lose custody of your child.
If you have physically abused your child, this would be grounds for his or her other parent to seek full custody. You might also find that Texas Child Protective Services gets involved and the situation might end with you having your parental rights terminated. If you have physically abused another child in the family or your child’s other parent, you also might not be able to have custody of your child, even if you have not abused him or her.
Termination of Parental Rights
In Texas, you might not be able to get custody of your child if you have already had your parental rights terminated for another child. If you are in this situation and you are seeking custody of a child that you still have parental rights to, it is important to seek out the counsel of an attorney or a legal resource group before your parental rights to that child are terminated.
If you are the biological mother of a child and you have taken illegal drugs during your pregnancy and caused your baby to be addicted to drugs or to suffer from withdrawal, you might lose custody of your baby. This could also cause you to lose custody of any other children you have (including future children). Similarly, if you are abusing drugs while caring for your child, you could lose custody.
In this case, you might be ordered to go through a drug rehabilitation program to regain custody of your child. If you do, you might get custody back. If you do not (or if you do and then go back to abusing substances after that), you might permanently lose custody. If you are addicted to substances, it is a good idea to seek help now, even if you are not currently ordered to do so.
Failure to Follow Court Orders
After a divorce or separation, you might be ordered to do various things that pertain to the custody of your child. For example, if you need to take parenting classes, anger management workshops, or drug rehabilitation, you must do so, or else you risk losing custody of your child. Another type of order has to do with visitation and physical custody: you must follow the court’s approved parenting plan.
If you need to return your child to his or her other parent on a certain day, then you risk losing custody if you refuse for reasons outside of your control (such as your car breaking down or inclement weather that makes travel dangerous). If you want to modify your parenting plan, you can talk to your legal resource group about doing that, but unless there is an emergency or your child is in danger of serious harm, you cannot simply decide on your own not to return your child to his or her other parent at the correct time.
Convictions and Imprisonment
If you are convicted of a serious crime or if you are in prison for a length of time, you could lose custody of your child. Depending on the type of conviction and how long you are imprisoned for, you might be able to regain custody after you have served your sentence. These laws are in place to keep your child safe. Decisions are made in the best interest of the child. If you need help understanding whether you are at risk of losing custody in Texas, contact National Family Solutions today.