Terminating Parental Rights: What You Should Know
When you have children, you are inherently granted certain rights and responsibilities as a parent. These rights include things like how they are raised and making decisions about their education, religion, and healthcare. These rights remain until your child reaches eighteen years old.
However, under certain circumstances, you may choose to voluntarily terminate your parental rights, or a court may decide to terminate your parental rights against your will in the best interests of your children.
What Does Terminating Parental Rights Do?
Whether you voluntarily terminate your parental rights, or the court does it against your will, the end result is the same. Upon termination, you will no longer have any rights, responsibilities, or obligations to your children.
This also means you will no longer have a say in your children’s upbringing, no visitation rights, and not even the right to speak to your children.
When Are Parental Rights Terminated?
Parental rights can be terminated both voluntarily and involuntarily, and different circumstances may lead to either option.
Here are some common situations under which your parental rights can be involuntarily terminated:
- Child Abandonment: If you do not communicate with your child for at least 6 months.
- Permanent Neglect: If your child enters the foster care system and you do not make any plans for the future of your children for more than one year after the child entered foster care, you could lose rights based on neglect.
- Mental Illness or Disability: If you become mentally unstable or deficient and are no longer able to care for your child.
- Severe Abuse: Your child is found to have suffered severe, repeated abuse while under your care. This includes sexual abuse and neglect.
- Alcohol or Drug Incapacity: If you are incapacitated due to excessive use of drugs or alcohol.
- Felony Convictions: If you are convicted of certain felonies, especially those involving violent crimes or domestic abuse. Or, if you are imprisoned for a long period of time, forcing your child into foster care, you may lose parental rights.
In an involuntary termination, a petitioner (someone concerned about your child’s welfare) usually presents the case to the court. After the petition goes through, there will be a trial where the court will hear the arguments of both sides and decide whether or not you should be permitted to keep your parental rights.
You may choose to voluntarily terminate your parental rights, but doing so still requires the approval of a judge and your child’s other parent.
Some situations where you may decide to voluntarily terminate your rights:
- To allow another person to adopt your child.
- If you are not capable of caring for your child. This may be the case if you are a minor or disabled.
- If your child requires special care that you cannot provide and wish to relinquish care of the child to the state.
Voluntarily terminating parental rights is a very complex and challenging decision, and no parent should take it lightly.
Do I Need A Lawyer?
Whether you are voluntarily terminating your parental rights or being challenged in court and risk losing them against your will, you should have legal assistance. The courts take the issue of parental rights and a child’s best interests very seriously, and trying to navigate the legal system without an attorney will likely work against you.
If you need help dealing with a parental rights issue, please contact our offices today. We have extensive experience dealing with a wide range of custody, parental rights, and family law issues that will help us handle your case.
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