While parenting can be a challenging task, most parents relish the joys and accomplishments that come with raising a child. Some parents, however, are unable or unwilling to properly care for their children. In cases where a parent is not suited for the task of raising his or her child, his or her parental rights may be terminated. While courts generally try to preserve the parent-child relationship and will go to extensive lengths to keep the relationship intact, a court must always do what is in the best interest of the child, and in some cases, it is more beneficial for a child not to have contact with his or her parent.
Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights
In some cases a parent might recognize his or her own inability to properly care for a child or may recognize that another person or family can better provide for the child, and he or she may make the painful decision to voluntarily terminate his or her right to custody so that the child may be adopted. In some states, there is a grace period following the voluntarily termination in which the parent can revoke his or her consent to an adoption.
Voluntary termination of parental rights alone will usually not terminate a child support obligation; seeking to modify a child support order or agreement may be more effective.
Deciding to relinquish parental rights to a child is an extraordinarily serious decision that should not be taken lightly. Once the termination of parental rights is final, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to get them reinstated if you change your mind in the future. If a parent is considering voluntarily terminating his or her parental rights due to the financial burden of support obligations, he or she should seek to have the support order or agreement modified, rather than surrendering the right to be a parent to his or her child.
Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights
Unfortunately, not all parents are suited to the task of caring for a child and in some cases, may actually be a potential source of harm for their child. As such, there are measures that can be taken to terminate parental rights. The procedures and requirements for terminating parental rights vary by state. In most states, parental rights will not be terminated unless the parent is unable to safely care for the child or provide for the child’s needs. If a co-parent or guardian believes a parent presents a risk of danger to a child, he or she can file a petition in a court that has jurisdiction over the matter, asking the court to terminate parental rights.
Common factors considered by courts deciding whether to terminate parental rights include chronic or severe mental or physical abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect. Additionally, if a parent has abandoned a child or refuses to provide support for or have any contact with a child, it may be grounds for termination of parental rights. In some cases, a parent’s mental health issues or substance abuse problems may be the impetus for the court to find that he or she is unfit to parent, and terminate his or her parental rights. In many states, if a parent has committed a crime of a sexual nature his or her rights can be terminated, even if the child was not the victim of the crime. Additionally, if a parent is convicted of a felony and sentenced to incarceration, his or her parental rights may be terminated. In some states, if the circumstances that caused the involuntary termination of parental rights are no longer present and the parent can prove to the court he or she is able to care for his or her child, the parental rights may be reinstated.