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How Can You Lose Permanent Custody of Your Child?

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. | Last updated on

Some parents will never fear having their rights terminated. Others will voluntarily make the choice. And still others will be forced.

For this last group -- those facing a court order stripping them of their parental rights -- information is the first step to maintaining the parent-child link. Courts involuntarily terminate parental rights only when a parent is unfit and doing so is in the best interest of the child.

Here are some criteria they most often consider:

  • Chronic and severe abuse and neglect
  • Abandonment
  • Untreated, long-term mental illness or addiction
  • A failure to support or maintain contact with the child
  • Long-term incarceration
  • A failure to take rehabilitative measures as directed by child services

State criteria differ, but almost all give courts the power to terminate parental rights when these factors exist. Others may also consider the involuntary termination of rights with respect to other children.

The state's goal is to place the child in a stable, safe household and to provide for his needs. Policy generally directs caseworkers to keep families together, but that can't happen without parental effort.

Courts are more likely to terminate parental rights when there is proof that a child is unsafe and the parent is not trying to fix the situation. Courts also don't look favorably upon chronically absent parents who are just trying to spite their ex.

Ultimately, it takes some pretty serious evidence for a court to terminate parental rights. But judges will do it, so it's best to get help and prove that you can take care of your child.

Still have specific questions about child custody? FindLaw Answers has a robust family law forum with similar inquiries. Ask away.

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