How To Win a Termination of Parental Rights Case

Updated January 17, 2024
11 min read
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 it is sometimes necessary. In the following article, we'll explore the most common reasons for terminating parental rights, the procedure of termination, and provide some tips on how to win a termination of parental rights case. 

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're a person whom a court has ordered to visit the child;

  • You're 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;

  • You're potential adoptive parents who have been granted standing;

  • Grandparent, great-grandparent, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew of the child;

  • Both parents of the child 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 of parental rights case with the court;

  • An affidavit of relinquishment or written consent for adoption designates you as the managing conservator of the child; and

  • 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. 

  • Dependency: 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.

  • Abandonment: 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.

How To Respond To a Termination of Parental Rights Cases

If you face this situation, you may be wondering how to fight the termination of parental rights. The steps include:

  1. 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. 

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Serve the answer: The petitioner who filed the case against you must receive a copy of your answer after you complete the previous steps.

  5. 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: 6 Tips

Coping with the loss of parental rights can be an emotionally tumultuous experience filled with uncertainty. However, it's crucial to note that such scenarios can be reversible under appropriate circumstances. Understanding the best strategies to approach this situation can significantly increase your chances of winning back your rights. In this guide, we will delve into five crucial tips on how to win a termination of parental rights case.

1. 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.

2. Seek legal counsel

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

3. 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.

4. 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. 

5. 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.

6. 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.


Dealing with termination of parental rights cases is a complex and emotionally challenging process. Whether you're initiating or responding to this situation, understanding the legal intricacies involved is crucial for the best outcome. It's vital to remember that these cases are guided primarily by the child's best interest principle. Therefore, making the necessary adjustments can be key to prevailing in the case.

In such cases, a custody agreement can be an essential legal document. This agreement outlines the rights and responsibilities of each parent, establishing a clear understanding of where the child will reside and when and how the other parent will have access to the child. It can serve as a critical piece of evidence when negotiating the termination of parental rights.

Engaging an experienced legal professional can also contribute significantly to navigating these waters successfully. With the right information, support, and a relentless commitment to your child's welfare, successfully handling termination of parental rights cases is certainly within reach.

Article by
Yevheniia Savchenko

Yevheniia Savchenko is a Product Content Manager at Lawrina. Yevheniia creates user interface copies for Lawrina products, writes release notes, and helps customers get the best user experience from all Lawrina products. Also, Yevheniia is in charge of creating helpful content on legal template pages (Lawrina Templates) and up-to-date information on US law (Lawrina Guides). In her spare time, Yevheniia takes up swimming, travels, and goes for a walk in her home city.

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