Is there anything a father can do to protect my son’s parental rights while he is in prison?

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Is there anything a father can do to protect my son’s parental rights while he is in prison?

My son is currently in prison. He has 17 months until he is released. About 2 years ago he found out he had a 6 year old daughter but now the mother has filed to remove his parental rights and have another man adopt his daughter. He tried to set up child support but was told he had to wait until his release. This month will be 2 years he has known about her and given no financial support so his court appointed lawyer told him he really can’t do anything to help or stop this from happening.

Asked on August 25, 2012 under Family Law, Texas

Answers:

B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Your question indicates that your son is in Texas... which means that yes, there are several things that you could do to help your son retain custody.  The first is that you can help him send child support to the child.  To terminate his rights, the mother has to allege a valid basis or he has to be served and default (i.e. fail to answer in the suit.)  One valid basis for termination is failure to provide support.  If you can help your son send support to mom (regardless of whether the court has ordered it or not), that will eliminate that basis.  Make sure that any payments sent are with funds that can be verified later (like in the form of check, cashiers check)-- you may even want to send them certified.  If the letter/payments are returned, then your son will at least have proof that he was trying to provide support-- but she was the one refusing.  The second thing that your son needs to do is file an answer in the paternity/adoption suit.  If he doesn't file an answer, then she can go forward without any other notice to him.  The answer does not have to be fancy... copy the heading, include the cause number, and have him write something to the effect "I (DAD) hereby enter a general denial and wish to assert my rights as father to the child (NAME OF CHILD) and do not consent to the termination of my paternal rights."  If you can afford it, hire him a family law attorney.  It sounds like he's been talking to a criminal law attorney (they are not always that well trained in both areas).  A family law attorney can file an answer for him and then request the court to issue a "bench warrant" so that he can come to the county where the paternity suit is pending and participate in the court proceedings.  You may also want to intervene and assert grand-parent's rights. 


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