Can Parental Rights Be Terminated because of Drug Use?

Termination of Parental Rights

As a parent, you are the legal guardian of your child. Parental rights pertain to the custody of the child, i.e. (1) the legal right to make decisions for the child; and (2) physical custody to provide and care for the child. Usually, the decisions made by the parent are done with the best interest of the child in mind. However, when the parents of the child act in such a way, that it is in the best interest of the child to terminate parental rights, a court can and will terminate accordingly.


The Texas Family Code states that: “a parent’s right to a child may only be terminated upon clear and convincing evidence that (1) the parent committed one or more of the specified statutory termination grounds, and (2) termination is in the child’s best interest.” TEX. FAM. CODE § 161.001(b)(1)-(2).

The key term, best interest, is based on the circumstance the child himself self in. See In re Lee, 411 S.W.3d 445, 460 (Tex. 2013) (orig. proceeding). A court may use several factors to consider whether it is in the best interest of the child to terminate parental rights:

  • the desires of the child;
  • the emotional and physical needs of the child now and in the future;
  • the emotional and physical danger to the child now and in the future;
  • the parental abilities of the individuals seeking custody;
  • the programs available to assist these individuals;
  • the plans for the child by these individuals;
  • the stability of the home;
  • the acts or omissions of the parent which may indicate that the existing parent-child relationship is not a proper one; and
  • any excuse for the acts or omissions of the parent. Holley v. Adams, 544 S.W.2d 367, 371–72 (Tex. 1976).


How is a court likely to assess whether or not to intervene against a parents’ rights? You guessed it, in the best interest of the child. In re J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d at 266. But what is the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (“The Department”) likely to do when a child is exposed to drug abuse?


The Department received a referral from a school counselor indicating that a minor wanted to harm herself. The Department investigated the family’s home and administered drug tests to the mother and received positives for methamphetamines and amphetamines. That day, the children were removed from the home for suspected family violence and drug use. The mother was placed in an Intensive Outpatient Program and Supportive Program, and mandated to Anonymous/Alcoholics Anonymous three hours a week among other programs. She was to refrain from alcohol and drug use during the investigation period, the goal being family reunification.

After several months in rehabilitation programs, the mother’s parental rights were revoked after she failed to show progress with their services. She again tested positive for drugs.

Illegal drug use supports a finding that termination is in the best interest of the child and a court is likely to use past conduct to predict the future conduct of parents. Here, the mother has a history of substance abuse, to the point of using drugs when unknowingly pregnant with one of the children. The Department deemed the home unstable for the children due to several issues: violence calls made to a sheriff’s office, mother’s history of alcoholism and depression, a tainted urine sample while enrolled in a drug screening program, and absences from her rehabilitation program among others. The caseworker assigned to her case agreed that by not complying with the service plan, a parent is not providing their children with a safe environment. The held that the termination of the mother’s parental rights was in the best interest of the children. See In re J.F.C., 96 S.W.3d at 266.

Contact Information