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I want to reinstate my parental rights after termination.

Parental Rights Reinstatement

How to ask the court to give back ("reinstate") your parental rights after they have been terminated by DFPS.
Overview

Guide Overview

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not a substitute for the advice and help of a lawyer. It is a good idea to talk with a lawyer about your particular situation.

This guide is intended for use when your parental rights were terminated by the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), and you want to ask the court to reinstate (give back) your parental rights.

This guide includes:

  1. Instructions for filing a Petition for Reinstatement of Parental Rights
  2. Worksheet to gather information in preparation for filing a Petition for Reinstatement of Parental Rights

And the following forms:

  1. Petition for Reinstatement of Parental Rights
  2. Notice to the Department of Intent to Petition for Reinstatement of Parental Rights

This guide does not include a Proposed Order on Petition for Reinstatement of Parental Rights. An order form is not available on TexasLawHelp at this time and should be drafted by an attorney, such as the attorney ad litem, if possible.

If you have questions, contact the Family Helpline at Texas Legal Services Center (TLSC). 

Austin Community Law Center is currently running a Reinstatement Program that offers legal assistance to qualifying applicants. Contact ACLC if you believe you are eligible for reinstatement to see if you qualify for the program.

The Family Helpline and TexasLawHelp.org created this guide.

Research Tips

The legal system and, especially, cases involving CPS are very complex. This guide can’t answer every question. Researching the laws and regulations governing this type of case is important. For more information on how to conduct this research, read the Legal Research Guide

You can go to a law library to conduct legal research. There is a directory of public local law libraries at Law Libraries in Texas.

Examples of books and guides to look for at a law library:

  • O’Connor's Texas Family Law Handbook
  • Texas Family Law Practice Manual
  • Texas Family Code Annotated
  • Texas Jurisprudence

A law library may also have a subscription to an electronic legal research service such as Westlaw or LexisNexis.

A Texas resident who's not near a law library may access more information by registering for a free Texas State Law Library Account. With this account, you can access a variety of online sources.

Common questions about Parental Rights Reinstatement

Reinstatement means that parental rights can be given back to a person after termination and become a legal parent again. They can take care of their child and live with their child again as their legal parent.

Read Reinstatement of Parental Rights for more information.

Termination of parental rights is a specific order that can only be made in court. A termination order ends the legal relationship between a parent and their child. After a termination, a parent and a child are legal strangers.

A final order, or decree, from a DFPS case (often called a "CPS" case) will clearly say if parental rights are terminated.

Read Reinstatement of Parental Rights for more information.

The law is complicated and has many requirements. Because of this, it may be helpful to speak with a lawyer about whether you are eligible to have your rights reinstated.

Carefully read the Requirements for the Reinstatement of Parental Rights to help determine your eligibility. 

No, it is not necessary, but it may be helpful if you have questions or concerns about what happened during your CPS case, or if you want to better understand the reasons why your parental rights were terminated. This may help you when writing your summary statement of how you have addressed the safety concerns that led to termination.  

If you think you need your records, you may want to submit your request far in advance. These records can take up to a year to arrive.  

CPS records can be requested through DFPS’s Records Management. The form to request the records can be found through DFPS - Requesting Your Case Record (state.tx.us).

If you were given a case record in discovery before trial during your CPS case and you have had no further interactions with CPS, it may not be as helpful to request your records. However, it is possible that additional records were added to your file since then.

You can contact the Family Helpline at Texas Legal Services Center (TLSC). You will be able to speak with an experienced child welfare attorney about any questions you have about the new law or eligibility.

Family Helpline is available Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

(844) 888-65656

Instructions & Forms

Warning: These instructions provide general information and are not a substitution for legal advice. It’s a good idea to talk with a lawyer about your particular situation. 

These instructions explain the steps to request that your parental rights to your child be reinstated, meaning given back, after a termination.

This guide does not include a Proposed Order on Petition for Reinstatement of Parental Rights form at this time. The order should be drafted by an attorney, such as the attorney ad litem, if possible.

Do Not Use These Instructions If:

  • You are still named on a court order as any kind of conservator or a parent non-conservator. Your rights have not been terminated.
  • It has not been two years since your parental rights were terminated.

Checklist Steps

You need to get a copy of the order terminating your parental rights if you do not already have it. You should have received a copy from your lawyer after the termination.

If you cannot find it, contact the District Clerk in the county where your rights were terminated. Provide them with the case or cause number if you have it; if not, the clerk can find it with your name and your children’s names.

Tip: The court order may be called many different things: a Final Order of Conservatorship, a Final Decree in Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship, an Interlocutory Order Terminating the Parent-Child Relationship, or maybe something else.  ‘Termination of Parental Rights’ may or may not be in the title of the order. You may need to read through the orders to find the right one. 

Some counties have their court files available online. You may be able to print it from their website. If you cannot go in person or find the order online, you may be able to call and ask for a paper copy to be mailed to you or an electronic copy to be emailed to you.

Print at least two copies and place them in a folder. You can highlight or write on one copy but keep the other copy clean.

This worksheet is not required to be completed before filing a Petition for Reinstatement of Parental Rights, and it does not get filed with the court. The worksheet is a good tool to help you collect information and decide if you meet the legal requirements for the Reinstatement of Parental Rights.

You should carefully read Requirements for Reinstatement of Parental Rights to see if you are eligible for reinstatement.

The law also requires notice be given to many of the parties involved in your termination case. You can use the worksheet to gather the names and contact information for each person listed.

Put the worksheet in a safe folder; you will have to refer to it when filling out your court forms.

Your Summary Statement will have all the information from your worksheet written into a formal statement of the facts and evidence you believe show you have the capacity and willingness to perform the duties of a parent.

This statement is important because DFPS and the other child advocates will consider it as they decide if they want to work with you to reinstate your parental rights.

It is legally possible to have your rights reinstated without the support of DFPS and the child’s advocates, but it will be more difficult.

You can ask a friend or an attorney to review your statement.

Before a parent files a Petition for Reinstatement of Parental Rights, they must give 45 days’ notice to the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) that they intend to file their petition. This can be done by using Form K-906-3800 – Notice to the Department of Intent to Petition for Reinstatement of Parental Rights. You can also find the form on the DFPS website and select Form 3800.

A copy of this Notice must be filed again with your Petition, so make sure you keep a copy of it for yourself. Use the information you wrote down in your Worksheet to complete the Notice form as best as you can.

You can fill out the Notice form online or print it, complete it, and scan it in.

Email the completed form to DFPSParentalReinstatement@dfps.texas.gov. Print out the email page showing the date you sent the email.

Circle your calendar for 45 calendar days later. This will be the first date you can file your Petition for Reinstatement of Parental Rights.

The 45 day period between filing your Notice and when you file your Petition gives the caseworker and other child advocates the chance to speak with you, assess your situation, and decide whether you may be a good candidate for reinstatement of parental rights.

If you do not believe that the other parties will be open to talking to you and working with you, it is a good idea to speak to an attorney.

You will file the Petition with the court. It tells the judge and all other parties you want to reinstate your parental rights and why you have the right to ask.

You will have to sign this form under penalty of perjury. This means it is a crime to lie on this form.

This form must be signed in front of a notary.

When you fill out the Petition:

  • The worksheet you created will have most of the information you need to complete your Petition and Notice forms. You can also look at any recent documents filed with the court for information.
  • Consent of the Children 
    • Be sure that any child aged 12 or older wants to consent or has already consented to your parental rights being reinstated.
    • For children aged 11 or younger, it is possible to ask the judge to speak to them about whether they want your parental rights reinstated. If you want the judge to talk to a child, check the appropriate box asking for this.
  • Attach the Notice that you emailed to DFPS 45 days ago as Exhibit A.
  • Attach your Statement of Rehabilitation as Exhibit B.
    • Explain all the ways you have addressed the safety concerns that previously led to the termination of your parental rights. This statement might be the same one you already submitted in your Notice.
    • You can add more to your statement if there have been changes or updates (e.g., a pay raise or completed additional services during the waiting time).
  • Request for Appointment of Attorney Ad Litem for the Child(ren)
    • This section is optional.
    • If your child does not already have an attorney ad litem representing them, it could be helpful to ask the court to appoint one.
    • The attorney ad litem’s job is to talk to your child about what they want so that the judge can hear the child’s desires in court. If you do not want to ask for this, leave this section blank.
  • Service
    • Write where each party can be served.
    • Note: if your child is a member of an Indian tribe or is eligible to register with an Indian tribe, then that child is subject to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and the tribe must be notified. If your child is not subject to ICWA, you can leave this section blank.

Do this 45 days after you emailed your Notice to DFPS.

File your petition and any other starting forms (e.g., Affidavit of Inability to Pay) in the county in which the termination took place. There are two ways to file your petition:

1) To file your forms online, go to E-File Texas and follow the instructions.

2) To file your forms in person, take your petition and additional starting forms and copies to the District Clerk’s office in the county where your child lives.

At the clerk’s office:

  • Turn in your petition and other starting forms (and copies).
  • Tell the clerk you want to have the other parties served in person. This means a sheriff, constable, or private process server will deliver the initial court papers to the other parent in person.
  • Pay the filing fee and issuance fee (or file your completed Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs if you cannot afford the court costs).
  • Ask the clerk if there are local rules for court you need to know about for your case.
  • The clerk will “file-stamp” your copies with the date and time. The clerk will keep the original and give one copy back to you.
  • The clerk will print a form called a “citation.”  The citation tells the other parties that you have filed a parental reinstatement case. The clerk will attach a copy of your petition to the citation. The citation with a copy of your petition attached are the “initial court papers” that must be served on the other parties by a constable, sheriff, or private process server.

If you cannot afford to pay the court filing fees, you may be able to file an Affidavit of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs. This affidavit should be filed along with your petition.

A petition for the reinstatement of parental rights and notice of hearing must be served on:

  1. The child or the child’s representative
  2. The county attorney, district attorney, or regional attorney that represents the Department of Family and Protective Services
  3. The child’s attorney ad litem
  4. The Department of Family and Protective Services or the Single Source Continuum Contractor*
  5. If the child is subject to the Indian Child Welfare Act, the designated tribal service agent of the child’s tribe and any other person required by federal law

Texas Family Code 161.302(e)

*A Single Source Continuum Contractor, or SSCC, is an agency that fulfills a similar role to CPS in certain counties, such as 2Ingage, Belong, Our Community Our Kids, or Saint Francis Ministries. The “caseworker” on your case may work for one of these agencies instead of CPS.

You can read How to Serve the Initial Court Papers for more detail.

The reinstatement hearing must be held within 60 days of the Petition for Reinstatement being filed. Generally, it is the petitioner’s (the person who filed the suit) job to set the hearing. Every county has its own procedure for how to set a hearing. If you are not sure how to do it in your county, talk to an attorney.

The court coordinator is usually the person who can tell you what dates and times the judge has available to hear your case. Once the case is scheduled for a hearing, you must give notice of when and where the hearing is scheduled to all the other parties.

At the hearing, you have to provide evidence that shows each of these things:

  • Reinstatement of parental rights is in the child's best interests;
  • You are eligible for reinstatement of parental rights;
  • You are willing and capable of performing your parental duties; and
  • You are willing and capable of maintaining the health, safety, and welfare of the child.

Read Requirements for the Reinstatement of Parental Rights for detail on what the court looks at when deciding reinstatement and what is in the child's best interests.

Look at your worksheet – you should already have a list of facts, evidence, and possible witnesses that support these things. Think carefully about what you want to say, what evidence you want to show the court, and what witnesses you want to call. Any witnesses you call (including yourself) may also have to answer questions asked by the other parties.

Remember: you may not have a lot of time to present your evidence, so think carefully about the most important things that you think the judge should hear.

What should I expect to happen in court?

Because you have already been through a CPS court case, you should have some idea of what to expect from court and your judge. However, it can be helpful to remind yourself how to act in court and how to plan to get there. You can read about Tips in the Courtroom to refresh your memory and how to Gather and Present Evidence for your hearing.

At the hearing, you and the other parties will have an opportunity to explain what you want and present any evidence that supports your position.

Attend this hearing! If you do not, the judge may not be able or willing to reinstate your parental rights!

After hearing all of the evidence, the judge can decide to do one of three things:

  1. Grant your petition. The judge agrees to reinstate your parental rights, and you will be the legal parent of your child again; you will be responsible for taking care of them.
  2. Deny your petition.
    • The judge does not agree to reinstate your parental rights because they do not think it is in your child’s best interest.
    • It may be possible to ask again after one year has passed, assuming all the other legal requirements are met.
  3. Defer the decision on your petition and make a temporary order that says DFPS will continue to be the managing conservator of the child, but you will be given temporary possessory conservatorship rights.
    • This means that the court needs more time to see if reinstating your parental rights is the right decision.
    • The judge will give you limited temporary rights to your child, but DFPS will still be the primary decision maker; these rights will last six months. During the six months, DFPS, the other child advocates, and the court will monitor you and your child to see if it is safe and appropriate for your rights to be reinstated.
    • After the six months have passed, the judge will decide whether to grant your petition for reinstatement or deny it.

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