Seeking Termination and Adoption in a CPS Case

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

These instructions explain the basic steps to file a Petition in Intervention in a CPS case if you seek to terminate parental rights and adopt a child.

Use these instructions if:

CPS cases are legally complicated and can change significantly over a period of a year or more. This guide is not intended to apply to every possible scenario or option in a CPS case. If you have questions about other legal options, you should speak to a lawyer. You can use our Legal Help Directory to find a lawyer in your area.

Checklist Steps

It is important to understand these words:

  • Degrees of Consanguinity
    • First Degree – you are a parent or the child;
    • Second Degree – you are a brother, sister, grandparent, or grandchild;
    • Third Degree – you are a great-grandparent, great-grandchild, aunt who is a sister of a parent of the person, uncle who is a brother of the parent of the person, nephew who is a child of a brother or sister of the individual, or niece who is a child of a brother or sister of the person.

These are according to Texas Government Code Section 574.023(c).

  • Intervention – When a nonparent asks to become a party to an existing CPS case. A person can intervene in a CPS case to seek custody of a child (a managing conservatorship) or to have the parents' rights terminated so they can legally adopt the child. After intervening in the case, you can attend court, file legal documents, present evidence, and ask the court for certain orders. 
  • Intervenor – The person who files the Petition in Intervention (i.e., you).
  • Service of Citation – It is legal notice to the other side that you have filed your case. In general, it includes personal service, service by registered or certified mail, or service by publication.
  • Termination – 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.
  • Adoption – Adoption creates a parent-child relationship between the adoptive parent and the child. An adoptive parent takes on the permanent role of care for the child and has all the rights and duties of a biological parent. Read more on Texas Adoption Law.
    • Note: The process of adoption through CPS may be different than with a private adoption agency.
  • Legal father – A person who has all the rights and duties of a parent by legal presumption (parents are or were married), an acknowledgment of paternity was filed, or by court order.
  • Alleged or Unknown father – A father’s legal status influences many issues in a CPS case, including notice, service, and grounds for termination. It is important to understand the status of any fathers involved in the case. Read about paternity and unknown fathers for more information.

The law only allows the following people to file an intervention in a CPS case for termination and adoption of a minor child:

  1. Someone who would have standing to file a new case regarding a child. Texas Family Code 102.003(a). The
  2. A grandparent deemed by the court to have had substantial past contact with the child and there is proof that there would be significant impairment of the child’s physical health or emotional development from their parents. See Texas Family Code 102.004You will have to get the court’s permission (request leave) to intervene.
  3. Another person deemed by the court to have had substantial past contact with the child and there is proof that there would be significant impairment of the child’s physical health or emotional development from their parents. See Texas Family Code 102.004You will have to get the court’s permission (request leave) to intervene.
  4. You have standing to seek termination of the parents’ rights and adoption of the child. You are allowed if you are:
    • a stepparent of the child;
    • an adult who, as the result of a placement for adoption, has had actual possession and control of the child at any time during the 30-day period preceding the filing of the petition;
    • an adult who has had actual possession and control of the child for not less than two months during the three-month period preceding the filing of the petition;
    • an adult who has adopted, or is the foster parent of and has petitioned to adopt, a sibling of the child; or
    • another adult whom the court determines to have had substantial past contact with the child sufficient to warrant standing to do so.
    • Texas Family Code 102.005

If you file with standing under Texas Family Code 102.003(a), 102.004(a), or 102.005, you are automatically added as a party, and the court cannot deny the intervention unless a motion to strike is filed.   

But: if you file the intervention under Texas Family Code Section 102.004(b), you do not automatically become a party. The judge must first grant "leave" to intervene. A judge can decide to (1) allow the intervention or (2) deny it—even if no party files a motion to strike and you meet all legal requirements.

Carefully read Requirements for Nonparent Intervention in a CPS Case for a full list of people with standing.

If the law allows you to file an intervention in the case, go to Step 3. If you are not sure, talk with a lawyer.

You do not have to file your intervention within a specific time frame. But any other party to the case can file a motion to strike asking the court to deny your intervention for “sufficient cause.”

A judge may refuse to let you intervene because it is too close to the trial date, or it would make the case too complicated. You should check the court record of the case to make sure the trial date is not too close to when you want to file your intervention.

Speak with an attorney if you have questions about when you should intervene in a case.

Fill out this starting form:

You will file the Petition with the court to start your intervention (if you do not need to request permission). It tells the judge and the other people involved what you are asking for (relief requested) and why you have the right to ask for it (standing).

When you fill out the Petition:

  • Print your answers clearly in blue or black ink.
  • Do not leave blanks.
  • Check off the proper boxes for standing.
  • Check off the proper boxes for relief requested.
  • Attach all necessary exhibits.
  • Talk to a lawyer if you have questions or need help.

Who is the petitioner? You are the petitioner: that is, the person who is filing the Petition in Intervention. The Department of Family and Protective Services (CPS) is also a Petitioner because they filed the original petition that started the case.

Who must be listed as a respondent? The parents of the children are typically the respondents because the case was filed against them by CPS.

Note: The Petition asks for your address. Each respondent will get a copy of your Petition. If you are concerned about a respondent knowing your address, call the Family Violence Legal Line at 800-374-4673 for free advice.

Fill out the appropriate additional starting forms:

  • Exhibit: Standing

If you are seeking termination and adoption of the child and are claiming standing under Texas Family Code Section 102.005, complete and attach Exhibit A(3).

It is possible to claim standing under more than one statute but it can complicate your petition. If you are unsure of whether you should claim standing under more than one statute you should speak to a lawyer.

  • Exhibit: Relief Requested

If you are seeking termination and adoption of the child (and have already attached Standing Exhibit A(3)), attach Relief Requested Exhibit B(2).

You may plead relief “in the alternative”—meaning if you don’t get the first thing you ask for, you want something else instead. Although this guide is not intended for alternative pleadings, you can speak to an attorney about how to incorporate this language.

Remember you must have standing to seek each type of relief.  For example, if you only have standing to seek termination and adoption, you cannot also ask for managing conservatorship.

  • Exhibit - Unsworn Declaration (if required) –

If you are seeking termination and adoption under Texas Family Code 102.005(5), attach Exhibit C(2) regarding substantial past contacts with the child. 

If you are a grandparent and you are unsure of whether to attach this affidavit, you should speak with an attorney.

Although not required, it’s a good idea to have a family law lawyer review your completed forms. Family law lawyers specialize in cases involving families, such as paternity cases.

You can hire a family law lawyer just to review your forms. Hiring a lawyer for a limited purpose is called limited scope representation. After the lawyer completes their purpose, you can finish your case yourself. You may also be able to talk with a lawyer for free at a legal clinic. If you need help finding a lawyer, you can:

Make enough copies of your completed Petition in Intervention and all exhibits to have one copy for you and one copy for every other party you need to give a physical copy. If you are filing your petition through the e-filing system, you must be able to scan the petition as a PDF.

File your completed Petition in Intervention and other attachments with the court in the county where the case is being heard.

To file your forms online, go to E-File Texas and follow the instructions. Read How to E-File to learn more.

To file your forms in person, take your petition and copies to the district clerk’s office in the appropriate county.

If the DFPS filed the first petition that started the case, then the attorney for DFPS is required to serve all respondent parents (including alleged fathers) and give them notice of the case. Depending on whether the parents (and alleged fathers) have responded to the case or appeared in court, you—an intervenor—may also be required to serve them with citation when you file the intervention.

You must only serve citation on any respondent who has not made a general appearance and from whom you seek affirmative relief. If a respondent has filed an answer or appeared in court on their own or through an attorney, a general appearance has been made, and service of citation is not required. You still must send a copy of the petition to all parties under Texas Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 21a so that they are aware the intervention has been filed. This process is generally easier than service of citation and can often be done electronically.

Assuming an alleged father has not made a general appearance, it may still not be necessary to serve him in certain situations. Alleged fathers are not entitled to service of citation if:

  1. The alleged father executed an affidavit of waiver of interest in the child. Texas Family Code 102.009(a)(8); Texas Family Code Chapter 161.
  2. You want to terminate the father’s rights. The child is over one year of age at the time the petition for termination is filed, the alleged father has not registered with the paternity registry, and after the exercise of due diligence by the petitioner, the alleged father’s identity and location are unknown or he cannot be located. Texas Family Code 161.002(b)(2).*
  3. You want to terminate the father’s rights. The child is under one year of age at the time the petition for termination is filed and the alleged father has not registered with the paternity registry under Chapter 160. Texas Family Code 161.002(b)(3).*
  4. You want to terminate the father’s rights. The alleged father registered with the paternity registry under Chapter 160, but the petitioner's attempt to personally serve citation at the address provided to the registry and at any other address for the alleged father known by the petitioner has been unsuccessful, despite the due diligence of the petitioner. Texas Family Code 161.002(b)(4).

The court must receive evidence of a certificate of the results of a search of the paternity registry under Chapter 160 from the vital statistics unit indicating that no man has registered the intent to claim paternity. Texas Family Code 161.002(e).

Figuring out whether a parent needs to be served is very important. If a respondent is not properly served and has no notice of a petition in intervention, it is possible that any judgment granting relief requested by the intervenors could be void. Serving parents— particularly alleged or unknown fathers—can be complex. If you are not sure how a party needs to be served with your intervention petition, you should speak to an attorney.

You can read about what service of citation is and how to serve initial court papers for more information.

Review these instructions or speak to an attorney to decide if citation must be served on any respondent parents (including alleged fathers). If no service of citation is required, a copy of the petition must still be given to each party so that they know your intervention has been filed. The easiest way to give notice is through the e-filing system, but any method of notice under Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 21a will work. 

If you are seeking to intervene under Texas Family Code 102.004(b), it is necessary to get the court’s permission to intervene. You can arrange to have the judge review your petition and request for leave in two ways:

  1. If there is a court hearing scheduled soon, you can attend court and bring a copy of your petition with you. In court, you can inform the judge that you have filed a petition for intervention, explain why you are asking for leave to intervene, and ask them to sign the order granting leave to intervene.
  2. If the next court hearing is not set for some time, you can try to have the judge review your petition outside of court. You can email the judge a copy of your petition and ask that leave to intervene be granted; however, you must copy all other parties on the email so that they are aware you are attempting to speak with the judge.

If you are filing an intervention under Texas Family Code 102.003, 102.004(a), or 102.005, the law does not require you to ask for leave to intervene before you become a party. However, sometimes it can be difficult to know whether the judge is aware that you are a party. An intervenor can attend any future court hearings, bring a file-stamped copy of their petition, and make the judge aware that it has been filed. An intervenor can also send a file-stamped courtesy copy of the petition to the judge. Remember that any communication with the judge must include all other parties to the case. 


Source URL: https://texaslawhelp.org/checklist/seeking-termination-and-adoption-in-a-cps-case