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Intervention in a CPS Case: Managing Conservatorship or Termination and Adoption

Child Protective Services (CPS)

This article explains the two types of relief you can request when intervening in a CPS case.

When filing an intervention in a CPS case as a nonparent, you will be required to state if you are asking for managing conservatorship of the child or to terminate the parent’s rights and adopt the child. Here, you will learn the difference between these two options to help you decide which is right for you.

What does termination through CPS look like?

Terminating a parent's rights ends the parent-child relationship between a parent and child. After termination, parents no longer have any legal rights to the child, and they have no duty to pay child support. Read more about Terminating Parental Rights.

What does it mean to become a “managing conservator” of a child?

The court appoints a nonparent managing conservator of a child. They are then responsible for making all the decisions a parent typically makes. A managing conservator has the same rights and duties as a parent would have to care for a child. 

Read Texas Family Code 153.371 for a full list of the rights and duties.

Note that when a nonparent is named managing conservator, the parents' rights are limited, but they may not have been terminated.

Read more about Conservatorship in Texas.

How is asking for managing conservatorship of a child different than asking for termination and adoption?

There are several things to consider when deciding whether to seek managing conservatorship or termination of rights to adopt the child.

First, it is much harder to terminate a parent’s rights than it is to limit a parent’s rights to the child in a conservatorship. To terminate a parent’s rights, there must be “clear and convincing evidence” that termination is in the child’s best interest. There are often reasons why termination is not in the best interest of a child. For example, a parent may be able to provide some financial or emotional support to the child, even if they are not a primary caretaker.

Through conservatorship, it is possible to allow a relative or family friend to be the primary caretaker of a child without completely cutting off a parent. For example, a parent may still have rights to visit the child, attend school events, or communicate with the child. If a parent’s rights are terminated, their legal relationship with the child no longer exists, and they do not have a right to interact with their child in any way. They also no longer have to pay child support. Read about terminating parental rights for more information.

Another consideration is whether a relative or family friend wants to give a parent a chance to be involved with the child or be the primary caretaker of the child in the future. Conservatorship orders can be changed in the future and allow a parent to regain their rights to the child if there is a substantial change in the situation. After an adoption, however, the biological parent cannot get any legal rights to the child back.

Finally, adoption is a more complicated and expensive process than conservatorship. Adoption requires more in-depth home studies and background checks than seeking conservatorship would. There are waiting periods and consent requirements for adoption that do not apply to conservatorship. It is usually necessary to hire an attorney to help with the adoption. Although it is possible to get adoption assistance, this may not be available if CPS does not agree with the adoption.

How does adoption through CPS work?

Adoption of a child from CPS requires termination of parental rights before finalization of the adoption. Although termination and adoption can happen simultaneously, it usually happens in two stages.

First, the parents’ rights must be terminated. This can happen by the parents’ agreement or by court order. CPS is usually given permanent managing conservatorship (PMC) of the child during this time. This means CPS still has the right to make decisions about where the child lives, goes to school, etc., even if the child is living with relatives or others who want to adopt.

After the parents’ rights are terminated, the adoption process starts. Because of the paperwork and reports needed for adoption, it can take months before the adoption is finalized. If CPS agrees with the adoption, CPS can assist in setting up home studies and background checks, providing Medicaid and adoption assistance payments, and even repaying some legal costs. Once the adoption is finalized, CPS will no longer be involved.

If CPS disagrees with the adoption, the adoption becomes “contested.” In a contested case, CPS may not assist unless the court orders it. If an adoption is contested, the situation is much more complicated, and it is best to seek the help of an attorney.

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