Being a parent isn’t easy, and it comes with legal rights and responsibilities to your children. However, there are instances when a parent can’t provide for their child’s needs. Under such circumstances, it may be in the best interest of the child to terminate the parental rights of their irresponsible guardian.
Termination of parental rights may end obligations regarding child support payments, but it will also remove your rights to shared parenting, custody, and visitation. To end a parent-and-child relationship, a judge has to approve the termination, which can be done either voluntarily or involuntarily.
A parent can choose to voluntarily relinquish their parental rights and responsibilities. Typically, voluntary termination occurs when parents want to give up their child and are consenting to the adoption. Once these legal rights are terminated, the other parent will have sole custody of the child. If the child’s guardian was unmarried or a single parent, then the child may be placed in foster care once their guardian’s rights are terminated. Talk to a family law attorney if you’re considering adoption or have concerns about custody cases.
It’s also possible to terminate one’s parental rights involuntarily. When a parent of the child is unable to provide effective parental care for the foreseeable future or puts little effort into supporting and communicating with their child, the family court can take their rights away.
In Utah, grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights include:
- Child abandonment. If a parent didn’t visit or stay in touch with their child for at least six months, they’re considered to have abandoned their parent-child relationship.
- Child abuse. This includes emotional, physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, or other non-accidental or threatened harm of any of their children.
- Neglect. Not providing shelter, food, medical care, and other necessary care, or failing to meet their legal obligations as a parent, counts as parental neglect. Alcohol and drug abuse can be considered neglect.
- Unfitness. Parental rights can be lost if the parent is considered incompetent and unfit to provide for the child’s needs because of mental illnesses, incapacity due to drugs or alcohol abuse, abusive behavior, habitually failing to meet their parental responsibilities, or being imprisoned for at least a year and leaving their child without a home.
- Token effort. Parents who only put in a token effort to be involved in their child’s life can lose their parenting rights. Examples include visiting or communicating with their children for only a few times a year, or being significantly behind on paying child support.
Each state may have its statutes regarding grounds for termination. If you’re concerned about your parental rights being terminated involuntarily, talk to a local family law attorney as soon as possible.
After the Termination Proceeding
In family law cases dealing with parents’ or fathers’ rights, you’ll need to show that there are grounds for termination and that terminating the parent’s rights is in the child’s best interest, using clear and convincing evidence. If losing their rights means that the child will be left without a responsible legal parent or legal guardian, they’ll be put in foster care. Typically, the court will have to file a petition to place the child in foster care under the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), except in the following instances:
- If the court found them to be an abandoned child.
- If the child had been in foster care for over a year in the last 22 months.
- If their parent committed or was otherwise involved in the murder or voluntary manslaughter of any of their children.
- If the parent committed a felony assault resulting in serious bodily harm to the child or the child’s siblings.
Many states will have other protective guidelines as well as exceptions in place, so check your state’s family laws or consult with a family lawyer if you have concerns about what will happen after terminating parents’ rights.
Reinstatement of Rights
Once terminated, most states won’t allow parental rights to be reinstated. However, it’s possible to reinstate your rights to child custody and support. You’ll need to file a petition and prove that ýour current circumstance allows you to provide for the needs of your child, and fit to be a parent to them.
If you’re facing legal issues and allegations regarding custody rights, parenting time, or rights to your child, call us today at Paul Waldron PC to discuss the best option for you and your child.