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Ways to Lose Child Custody

child custody attorney

Texas courts decide child custody matters based on the best interests of the children, and unless given reason to think otherwise, they assume children are best served through continued contact with both parents. Courts will typically only strip a parent of their custody rights when they believe a child’s health or well-being is at stake. Read on to learn about the limited circumstances under which a Texas court will remove a child from their parent’s custody. If you have a question about a child custody dispute, call a knowledgeable Texas child custody and parental rights attorney for advice and representation.

Child Abuse

The most common reason for stripping a parent of their custodial rights is child abuse. If a parent has physically abused their child, the court can terminate their parental rights and either award full custody to the child’s other parent or appoint a different legal guardian (in Texas, known as a sole conservatorship).

If Child Protective Services (CPS) is warned of potential child abuse, they will conduct an investigation. If the investigation unearths evidence of abuse, the parent can be stripped of their parental rights.

Domestic Violence

Violence perpetrated against other people besides the child can also serve as grounds for removal from custody. If a parent is physically abusive toward the child’s siblings, the child’s other parent, or other people in the home, a court can strip that parent of their custody rights.

Child Neglect

A parent might also lose their parental rights if they are found guilty of child neglect. Neglect means failing to provide food, shelter, clothing, medical care, or other basic necessities. Under Texas law, exposing a child to a situation involving a serious risk of physical, emotional, or mental harm can also be considered child neglect. For example, if a parent exposes a child to dangerous criminal activity in the home, the parent could lose their custodial rights.


A parent can lose their custody rights if they abandon a child. “Abandonment” has a specific legal meaning under Texas law, referring to leaving a child in a place without providing reasonable and necessary care, or otherwise leaving a child in a situation that no reasonable parent would leave them in. Abandonment may also refer to leaving a child behind with no seeming plan to return, such as leaving a child with daycare or an orphanage and failing to come back.

Violating Child Custody Order

A child custody order issued as part of a divorce or other child custody proceeding has the force of law. Violating the terms of a custody order is illegal. If one parent regularly violates the parenting plan by, for example, keeping the kids for extra days or taking them on trips without the other parent’s consent, the court could sanction that parent. Repeat violations can lead to consequences including being held in contempt of court and loss of parental rights.

Child Abduction

One extreme form of violating custody is child abduction, also known as “parental kidnapping.” If a parent takes a child out of the state in order to move to a new residence without consent from the other parent or the court, they might be guilty of child abduction. Parental kidnapping is a criminal act and can serve as grounds for the removal of custody rights.

Substance Abuse

A parent can lose their parental rights in Texas if they have a substance abuse problem that threatens the health and safety of their child. If they abuse illegal drugs while caring for their child, for example, they could lose their rights. A Texas court might also strip a biological mother of her rights if she abused drugs while pregnant, causing the baby to be born with an addiction or birth defects.

Mental Illness

If a parent’s mental health issues are so severe as to endanger the health and well-being of their child, a court might step in and remove the child from their custody.

Call a Dedicated Texas Child Custody and Parental Rights Lawyer

If you are dealing with child custody issues during or after divorce, you need assistance from a trusted Texas family law attorney. Call on a stellar divorce and child custody attorney at the Law Office of Maria Lowry to discuss your Texas child custody (conservatorship) matter.

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