Thanks to a new law that’s been passed in the Texas Legislature during the 2021 session, there’s a pathway for people who have lost their parental rights in Texas to get them back. It’s a big deal, because in the past, once your parental rights were terminated, they were gone forever, and there was no way to get them back, even if you felt that you were deserving of a second chance.
Let’s say, for instance, that you lost your parental rights because you were battling a drug problem. But let’s also say that through some combination of counseling, therapy and/or rehab — whatever it took to get you straight — you’ve cleaned up and you feel that you can function as a parent for your children again. The new legislation, which goes into effect on Sept. 1, allows a path for that to happen.
The Texas Observer had a recent article that has some insight into what this law does. One important thing to note: the new law “only grants a pathway to parents whose rights were involuntarily terminated: In other words, parents who went to court in a lawsuit brought by Child Protective Services, instead of signing away their rights willingly. Parents who voluntarily signed their children away to the state, another family member, or a foster or adoptive home, will not be eligible to use this new avenue to reunite their families.”
But, if you are in a situation where you tried to fight for your parental rights and lost, this law could allow you to at least gain some rights back — and it certainly gives an extra level of incentive for parents in Texas to not voluntarily relinquish their parental rights.
I consider myself an advocate for children, which means knowing that for many children in many situations, it’s best to have the parents involved in those children’s lives. In some cases, a parent can experience a traumatic situation or extreme stress or some other difficulty, and that could potentially lead to drug use or other behavior that might compromise a parent’s ability to tend to a child’s needs. And in those cases, that compromised ability might be a temporary thing.
It is possible for parents, under this new rule, to have a “second bite of the apple,” as it were. As we do in cases regarding custody and parenting rights, we advise clients to make sure they’re making the best possible cases for themselves if they’re trying to go before a judge to get parental rights reinstated. That means actively dealing with any addictions or anger management issues or anything else that could contribute to their ability to parent being questioned.
We also do expect that a number of these cases will go before the courts once the new legislation has become legally effective on September 1, 2021. The Texas Observer article noted that about 5,500 parents in Texas lose legal rights to their children every year. If even a fraction of those parents sought to reinstate the rights, it could add to a considerable addition of cases to the court system.
If you feel that this new law could benefit you, or if you’re concerned about losing your rights and having this new law apply to you, schedule a consultation with me at the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance. I work on CPS and other custody cases frequently, and I’m happy to help you assess your situation and how to reinstate or protect your parenting rights.