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When Can Parental Rights Be Terminated?

By Deanne Katz, Esq. | Last updated on

It's a sad fact that some people don't know how to be parents and deserve to have a court terminate their parental rights.

It isn't a decision to be taken lightly, since it's often a permanent solution. But for parents who have shown repeated failure to care for the physical and emotional health of their child, it may be the only option.

An unfit parent can choose to voluntarily terminate parental rights. But if that doesn't happen, the other parent or guardian will have to go to court to deal with it.

Factors to Consider

Courts are hesitant to terminate parental rights without significant evidence, since it is a binding and likely permanent decision.

To bring a claim, the child's other parent or guardian generally must show that termination is in the child's best interest.

Some states lay out specific factors for courts to consider, so knowing those factors will strengthen any case.

For example, evidence of severe abuse or neglect, chronic drug use or alcohol dependence, long-term mental illness, and abandonment are all important factors in a termination case. A parent's failure to maintain contact and support the child can also be helpful evidence.

Options and Consequences

Terminating parental rights severs a parent's legal ties, so that an unfit parent cannot make decisions for the child. But depending on your situation, there may be other options to consider first.

You could ask a court to limit visitation, order supervised visitation, or award full legal custody to you, so that the unfit parent doesn't have input on important decisions for the child.

However you decide to do it, gathering all this evidence and presenting it in an organized manner is the key to bringing a case to terminate parental rights. Having an experienced attorney on your side will help the process go more smoothly.

As a parent or guardian, your first duty is to protect the child you're caring for. If terminating an unfit parent's rights is the only way to do that, the legal system can help. Talk to an experienced family law attorney today.

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