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Family Law: What is the Termination of Parental Rights?

Thursday, November 17, 2016
Family Law: What is the Termination of Parental Rights?

Within family law, both parents have rights and responsibilities when it comes to their child or children. Termination of parental rights is complex and difficult. Issues like education, religion, healthcare, and more are shared rights. Financial support in an example of shared responsibilities. Regardless, a court can terminate the rights of a parent.

Voluntary Termination

Ultimately, the voluntary termination of parental rights typically only occurs if there is a good cause. Very often, this occurs when there is a step-parent ready, willing, and able to emotionally and financially support the child. If the biological parent is accepting and the step-parent is ready, this process can go smoothly. Without a step-parent, the courts are typically unwilling to terminate rights even if both biological parents are willing.

Regardless, if you are a parent who wants to terminate your rights, you must understand you are completely ending all rights and responsibilities. You will get no say in the future about the child's religious upbringing, their educational choices, or any medical decisions. Moreover, you will not receive visitation nor can you have even partial custody.

Involuntary Termination

More often, it is either the custodial parent or the state that works to terminate the rights of the non-custodial parent. For instance, when Child Protective Services places the child in foster care, and evaluates the competency of a parent, legal action can cause the involuntary termination of parental rights. Nonetheless, the courts will still seek "good cause" before ending a parent's rights. Examples include:

  • Abuse and/or neglect that are chronic
  • Abuse and /or neglect of their other children
  • Sexual exploitation and abuse
  • Abandonment
  • Long-term mental and emotional problems
  • Chronic alcohol and/or drug abuse.

Moreover, a parent can lose their parental rights if they are convicted of certain felonies. Specifically, this can occur when there is violence against the child or other family members. Additionally, a person can lose their parental rights if their prison sentence will cause the child an extended stay in the foster care system with no alternative. Regardless, it is always crucial to have an attorney represent you with any involuntary termination case, to protect your interests and defend against accusations.

What haven't we covered yet that is important to you? If you would like to talk about the termination of parental rights, or need more information, please contact us.