If you have kids and have to serve time in jail or prison, you may have asked: “Will I lose my parental rights as a result of my incarceration?” Typically, a criminal conviction does not take away a parent’s rights. However, this depends on many factors, including the severity of the crime, a person’s communication with his or her child(ren), and prison sentence. Of course, other circumstances can affect one’s ability to maintain parental rights from jail. For instance, issues making proper foster care arrangements, or another parent or person challenging the person’s ability to retain parental rights come into play. For more information on what can affect your ability to maintain parental rights while in prison, see below.
General Grounds to Terminate Parental Rights
As stated above, going to jail or prison is not the sole reason a parent may lose his or her parental rights in California. Especially in terms of short prison terms of approximately six months, a parent who is dealing with no other issues is generally able to maintain parental rights. At the same times, there may be a reason to terminate an incarcerated parent’s rights in his or her child(ren)’s life. Below are some circumstances in which parents can lose rights over their children.
While there are only a few ways in which a parent may lose his or her parental rights while incarcerated, state petition is one of them. If the state declares it wants to revoke an imprisoned parent’s rights, it may begin the process to do so. This is usually uncommon usually occurs for extreme reasons, such as:
- Neglect or abuse
- Participation in violent crimes
- Long-term drug/alcohol abuse
- Involuntary termination of parental rights of another child
Parents serving jail time who do not have a history of the above do not usually lose the right to be a parent. However, a state may deem a parent unfit based on other history and petition to cease contact with the children.
Another reason a parent can lose his or her children is the conviction of a sexual offense. Depending on the nature of the crime, the state or judge can rule a parent unfit to keep contact with his or her children.
Interrupting continuous contact while incarcerated can result in losing parental rights. If parents do not make an effort to have contact with their child while imprisoned, they may be stripped of their parental rights. A parent may lose parental rights if contact experiences disruption between six months to two years, though six months can suffice in most cases. The incarcerated parent must obtain a family lawyer and should be documenting any visits and attempts to maintain contact with the child in question. Having a written record can prevent a family court from claiming a parent made no effort to sustain a relationship while in jail.
Foster Care Issues
When a parent goes to jail or prison, the state steps in to provide the child with a foster home between 15 and 22 months or so. At which point, the incarcerated parent must successfully make other arrangements for the child. One instance a parent may lose their parental rights while their child is in foster care is if the foster family files a petition to adopt the child.
At this point, the state and foster family may take the parent to court to decide if parental rights should remain or if adoption is in order. Depending on the parent’s efforts to communicate and make accommodations for the child, one may lose parental rights. There may also be other complications within the state and foster agency that could cause a parent to lose their parental rights. However, if one parent remains free and retains custody of the child, this path is unlikely.
If an incarcerated parent has a lengthy prison sentence, they may wonder “can I lose my parental rights?” Serving a jail/prison sentence alone is not grounds to strip you of your parental rights; however, if the stay is lengthy, there may be a possibility. A parent facing a lengthy sentence may lose his or her rights if:
- The state deems the parent to be unfit
- If foster care stipulations run out
- The state places the child up for adoption
- If another parent or caretake challenges the rights of the imprisoned parent
If one’s stay is lengthy, he or she should obtain a family lawyer to work to maintain parental rights. This will usually be through constant contact with the child and other methods of support.
Seek Help from A Family Lawyer
Are you a mom or dad who may lose your rights as a parent? Are you dealing with custody, visitation, or other issues regarding your children? Call the team of child custody lawyers at Bansmer Law. Our team is ready to listen to the details of your case. Call (209) 395-0200 for a free consultation today.