There are fundamental rights and responsibilities to anyone who becomes a parent. Parents have the responsibility to provide food, shelter, and healthcare to their child. They also have the right to make decisions about religion or education for their child. It’s these basic rights and responsibilities that make the parent-child relationship so powerful. Unfortunately, there are far too many situations when this relationship becomes broken and parental rights need to be terminated. Terminating parental rights can be complicated and many people have questions about this process. That’s why we composed this list of ten common questions and answers about the termination of parental rights.
Facts About Terminating Parental Rights:
1. What is the termination of parental rights?
In it’s most basic terms, the termination of parental rights is when the court legally ends a parent-child relationship. The rights we mentioned above, such as making major decisions about their well-being, education, or religion, are dissolved. The parent no longer has any rights or responsibilities to their child.
2. What are different reasons for terminating parental rights?
There can be a variety of reasons for a parent to involuntarily lose rights over their child. However, the most common symptoms of terminating parental rights are neglect and abuse. Anyone who’s worked as a child advocate or guardian ad litem has probably seen many different cases of child abuse, abandonment, or neglect that will lead to the termination of parental rights. Also, if a father fails to claim paternity and will not provide child support, the courts will most likely decide to terminate his parental rights. There’s also cases of voluntary termination. This is when a parent decides to voluntarily give up the rights to their child. Often times, these cases are due to a mental illness, a terminal illness, or extreme financial instability.
3. Can you terminate your spouse’s parental rights?
Yes. A spouse can file to terminate parental rights. Either parent can file to terminate the rights of the other. However, the actual order will depend on the reasons presented to the court. There are some very critical reasons to immediately terminate parental rights, such as sexual or physical abuse, or in cases of missing child support payments. However, if you don’t like your spouse or you don’t get along, this is not a reason to legitimately terminate parental rights. Doing so can be harmful to the child and the child’s relationship with your spouse. Despite how difficult it may be for you personally, it’s never a good idea to cut off a connection between a parent and child unless there’s a legitimate reason to do so.
4. Who else can file to terminate parental rights?
There are cases in which an individual who is not the child’s parent can file to terminate parental rights. For instance, in most states, anyone in the immediate family can file to terminate parental rights. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, older sisters or brothers are all eligible to file. In addition, a prospective adoptive parent or a foster parent can also file a termination. Of course, different counties will have different protocols and guidelines for situations when a non-parent is seeking to terminate parental rights.
5. What happens after a parent’s rights are terminated?
When a parent’s rights are terminated, a child will go into foster care and wait for an adoption. The courts will often try to find a next of kin, a grandparent, aunt, or uncle, or other relative to propose an adoption.
6. Once a parent’s rights to the child have been terminated, can they get them reinstated?
Once a parent’s rights have been terminated, most states do not allow the rights to be reinstated. Many times, the courts will remind the parent or the person filing for termination that this is a permanent solution and the chances of reversing the order are very small.
7. How does a termination of parental rights impact a child?
Overall, every child and every situation is different. As anyone can imagine, terminating parental rights can be traumatizing for a child. A child who goes through this process will often struggle with issues of abandonment, neglect, or abuse as an adult. It’s important to provide a strong support system for any child who is cut off from a parent.
8. What do they mean by ‘best interest of the child’?
Courts will base decisions with the best interest of the child in mind. This means they’ll be weighing factors such as loving relationships, support systems, education, shelter, and healthcare. They’re looking for the best overall situation for the child.
9. Do I need a lawyer to help me file a termination of parental rights?
Terminating parental rights is a very complex and emotionally taxing procedure. It’s highly recommended to hire a lawyer for this process.
10. When should I contact a lawyer?
Even if you’re just considering terminating parental rights and you’re not quite sure if this is the right answer for you and your family, it’s important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible. A trusted family lawyer can present you with all of your options so you know how to proceed in the best possible direction. Contact a family lawyer today to learn more about terminating parental rights.