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Terminating Parental Rights

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When Can Parental Rights Be Terminated?

Parental rights can be terminated by court order for the protection of the child or by consent of the parents. Terminating parental rights is generally used to remove a child from a destructive or unhealthy environment or as a precursor to adoption. It terminates all rights and obligations of the parent with respect to the child.

What Are Reasons for Terminating Parental Rights?

Generally, courts will terminate parental rights in the best interests of the child. This includes anytime there is danger to a child's physical, mental, moral, or emotional health.

Common grounds for terminating parental rights include:

  • Child neglect or abuse
  • Child deprivation
  • Untreated substance abuse by a parent
  • Emotional illness, mental illness, or mental deficiency of a parent
  • Abandonment
  • A crime committed against the other parent

Examples of insufficient grounds for terminating parental rights include:

  • A parent who has committed a crime and been incarcerated but is now clean
  • Conflicts of religion unless it endangers the child's best interests
  • The fact that a parent lives with a non married member of the opposite sex

Is It Easier to Terminate Parental Rights of Fathers?

No, the parental rights of both sexes are supposed to be equal. However, it may be more difficult for fathers to establish that they are the legal parent of the child. In many cases, the challenge is to establish that the man is a father. Once fatherhood is established though, the state cannot remove parental rights absent one of the reasons listed above.

Is It Easier to Terminate Parental Rights If the Parents Are Not Married?

It depends. If the biological parents are one family unit with their children, then the parental rights are the same as married couples.

However, if the mother is married to a man who is not the biological father of the child, then the mother’s husband is the legally presumed father. Traditionally, these cases will result in the termination of the parental rights of the biological father. In recent years though, the fathers’ rights movement has cast doubt on the wisdom of denying a child access to his or her biological father.

Can a Non-Biological Parent Terminate Parental Rights?

Parents have the same rights to children as long as they are a legal parent to the child, regardless of how they became the parent. If a person becomes a parent by adoption or marriage, that person has the same parental rights and responsibilities as a biological parent. That means non-biological parental rights can only be terminated through one of the reasons listed above.

Do I Still Pay Child Support?

No. If a parent’s rights to the children are terminated, then the parent is not obligated to pay any future support. If the parent owes any past child support though, the court may require that the parent pay off the past support.

Can a Parent Terminate Parental Rights to Avoid Supporting Children?

Courts terminate parental rights based on a child’s best interests. Judges will deny termination if the parent merely wants to stop being a parent.

Do I Need an Attorney to Terminate Parental Rights?

The task of terminating parental rights can be complex and emotional. A family law attorney can help you through the process and help protect children in need.

Photo of page author Jason Cheung

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 01-30-2015 02:42 PM PST

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