The parent-child relationship is a special bond. Unfortunately, parents can violate the trust their children give them. When that occurs, their rights must be terminated.
One percent of American children will experience termination of parental rights. That’s nearly 750,000 kids.
Termination is a serious and long process. It splits families apart permanently. It may involve chronic abuse and neglect.
But it is often a necessary step that courts perform to protect children. You need to know what it entails long before the process begins.
Here is a quick guide.
Understanding Parental Rights
Parental rights are the rights that a parent has to raise their child. These rights relate to a set of responsibilities.
A parent has the right to make decisions for their child. They can decide where to send their child to school and where they should live.
A parent has the right to ask for respect. When a child does something bad, the parent can discipline their child. They can insist that their child does what they ask of them.
In order to make decisions, the parent must support their child. They must pay for a house and food. They must allow their child to attend school and do homework.
The parent must provide a safe environment for the child to develop. They should not abuse or starve their children. They should respect their child’s choices and personal identity.
Children have rights just as much as parents do. Children are entitled to grow up in an environment where they feel loved and protected. When a parent cannot provide that environment, parental rights must be restricted.
The Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights
A parent can terminate their own parental rights. This occurs most often in an adoption setting. A child’s biological parents terminate their rights so adopted parents can take care of their child.
Termination is different from full custody being given to one parent after a divorce. Even if one parent receives full custody, the other parent must pay child support. The other parent can also visit their child.
Termination means the parent will pay no support at all. They are under no obligation to care for their child in any way. They also have no access to the child until they turn 18.
Each state has its own laws for voluntary termination. In general, most states require that the parent fill out a series of forms. The parent will then go to a court hearing to talk to a judge about it.
Courts take the voluntary termination process very seriously. They will not grant one unless it benefits the child substantially. It does not matter if both parents request it.
Both parents can terminate their rights at once. They can name a relative who will take custody of their child. If the child has no guardians, the state can take custody of them.
Involuntary terminations occur more often than voluntary ones. Each state has its own statutes, but there are several factors that appear in all of them.
The grounds for involuntary termination involve situations when the child cannot return home. The parent will harm them, or their parent cannot provide for them.
The most common grounds include neglect, sexual abuse, and abandonment of the child. A felony conviction of violence against the child will lead to termination.
A parent can file to have the other parent’s rights terminated. A person with court-ordered access to the child or a foster parent can also file. The filing should contain detailed allegations showing that the parent is not fit to raise or access the child.
Court proceedings will then occur. A judge will interview witnesses and examine documents from child protective services. If the child is older than 12, the judge often asks for their input.
If the judge finds that allegations are substantiated, then rights will be terminated. A judge may determine that the allegations are not. A parent can pursue additional procedures, like a divorce or a restraining order.
Some child protective services can file a petition on their own merits. If a child stays in foster care for long enough, the service can ask a judge to suspend parental rights. This allows the child to stay in state care until a guardian can be found.
If both parents have equal power in a non-abusive scenario, they should consider mediation. This gives them an opportunity to work out their problems in a legal setting. They can decide how they should raise their child and divide responsibilities.
In an abusive scenario, one parent can petition to modify the parent-child relationship. For instance, the other parent can have visitation rights, but they must live somewhere else.
Allegations of abuse often go unreported. When they do get reported, state professionals may not believe them.
Your child may report abuse to the Department of Children and Families, only for the Department not to believe them. Don’t panic.
Take your time to consider your next steps. Do some research, reading this article and contacting legal professionals. Gather evidence that can substantiate your child’s allegations.
The Termination Process
When the parent-child relationship is violated, legal termination of parental rights may be necessary. The process is difficult.
Parental rights are the authorities that parents have to raise their children. But parents must be responsible, respecting their child’s own rights.
Voluntary termination often occurs with adoptions. Involuntary termination occurs with many felony convictions.
Either type leads to a long court hearing. Additional measures like meditation can be taken as well.
The law is in place to protect children from abuse. It works best when we all know about it. Follow our coverage for more information.