When are Parental Rights Terminated?

December 28, 2020

Parents have certain legal rights and responsibilities, which include having physical custody or visitation, decision-making for the children’s health and welfare, and the obligation to keep the children supported financially. When parental rights are terminated, the legal parent-child relationship ends. Afterwards, the children can be legally placed for adoption. Parental rights termination can be either voluntary or involuntary, for either birth parent. The goal of this termination is to obtain more stable, long-term family environments that can better meet the children’s parenting needs.

What are Some Reasons for Terminating Parental Rights?

The parent/child bond is seen as very important by the courts, and terminating rights is only used in extreme cases. Some obvious reasons for doing so include child abuse, child neglect or abandonment, if the child is at risk for returning to the home, or if the parent had a felony conviction. There are other reasons for terminating rights, such as failing to financially support the child, a lack of contact, a parent’s significant mental illness, or not complying with court-ordered parenting plans.

It is important to know that once a parent’s legal rights are terminated, it permanently ends the relationship. As a result, the parent will have no custody or visitation rights, and may not even be able to speak to their child. The parent will discontinue paying child support, and the child will have no inheritance rights; the parent’s name will be taken off the birth certificate, and the child can be placed for adoption without the parent’s consent.

How Does the Process Work?

If done voluntarily, the parent can complete a legally binding agreement and attend a termination hearing in court. From there, an official court order must be issued. In some cases, parents can agree to give up all rights instead of a parental rights termination.

When a parent will not voluntarily give up their rights, the person who wants this to happen will need to contact a court. After the other parent receives notice of a trial date or termination hearing, both parties will need to present their side of the story. They have to provide evidence and testify to support their cases, and that can include expert reports, witnesses, and documents. A judge will make the final decision.

Can Parental Rights be Reinstated?

The answer to this depends on the circumstances and the state where the family lives. Not all states allow for reinstatement, and those that require the parent to show proof of an extraordinary improvement in their parenting abilities before reinstatement can be considered. It will also be an issue if the child was permanently placed in a foster home.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, only 22 states have laws that permit the reinstatement of parental rights after they are terminated. Some of these laws state that if permanent placement for a child has not been found before a specified deadline, a reinstatement petition may be filed. Other reasons for allowing reinstatement include re-establishment of family ties and children who are growing too old for the foster care system.

Chester County Divorce Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Help Clients Protect Their Parental Rights

Terminating parental rights can be a worst-case scenario and should never be taken lightly. A Chester County divorce lawyer at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. will put your child’s interests first with trusted, experienced legal guidance. For a confidential consultation, call us at 610-565-3701 or complete our online form. Located in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania, we help clients throughout Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County.