How To Terminate a Parent's Rights To a Child
When a parent hears the words "termination of parent's rights", it fills them with a sense of dread. The last thing they want is to lose the child that they worked so hard to bring into this world. At least, that’s how it is for a vast majority.
For some parents, the term makes them sigh in relief as they had no business trying to raise the child in the first place. As it is a civil death sentence, judges consider a lot before they bring the hammer down on parental rights.
If you find yourself facing a family court with this situation dangling over your head, keep reading to learn more about the process.
What Does Termination of Parental Rights Entail?
Termination of parental rights sounds exactly like what it is. The parent loses any rights that they had to their own child. They can no longer be a part of the kid's life.
They have no say in how they are raised. They don't have to pay child support any longer. They can't go to the kid's place of residence to visit them.
The child can go up for adoption without the parent's consent. The parent's name is even stripped from the kid's birth certificate. They are completely cut off.
Who Can Terminate a Parent's Rights?
There are a few people who can start the termination process. If a parent, guardian, or some other family member notices that the child is being abused or worse, they can file a petition with the family court.
If the Department of Family Services comes out to a parent's house and sees anything fishy, they'll give them time to shape up. If the parent makes no effort to make progress, the DFS can then contact a district attorney.
Can You Do It Yourself?
Voluntary termination of parent's rights can only happen under a few circumstances. If another family is trying to adopt the child, you can let the process go through.
If someone has turned in a petition for you to give up your parental rights, you can let the child go without a fuss. Most of the time, you'll have to attend a court hearing, but after that, you're good to go.
What you can't do is give up your kid because they are what some would consider a problem child. You also can't give up your rights in a desperate attempt to get out of paying child support.
Common Reasons for Signing Away Parental Rights
There are many reasons why a judge might decide to relinquish parental rights. Neglect, abandonment, unfit parenting, severe abuse, and sexual assault are the big five.
Let's say that you're a teacher at a school. One of your students doesn't make it to your class that often. When they do, their clothes have holes in them.
More than once, you've noticed them begging their friends for money to pay for their lunch. You might be able to talk to DFS because the child's basic needs aren't being taken care of.
Parents have to provide a child with health care, education, food, and shelter. If they neglect to do so, the court might decide that they don't have the means to take care of the kid.
We'll throw another scenario on you. Your child has dumped their baby on you. They've told you that the situation is only temporary.
They're simply between jobs and can't care for the child the way they deserve to be cared for at the moment. That was 6 months ago. They haven't attempted to come to see the baby or given you any funds to meet their basic needs.
You've had to buy the food and diapers. This is what we call abandonment. The parent has shown that they have no intentions of being a parent.
The Parent is Unfit
An unfit parent is someone who either doesn't have the means to take care of a child or won't. This could be because of financial reasons or maybe their mental health isn't the best.
They could be a convicted felon. It might be that they can't stay away from drugs and alcohol long enough to drive their child to school or spend time with them.
We'll go back to the school teacher example that we used before. You have a student who is always coming to school covered in bruises.
When you ask them about it, they tell you that they fell down the stairs, but they won't make eye contact. It's an obvious lie. You can get on the phone with DFS to report severe abuse.
A parent can lose custody of their child in a couple of ways when it comes to sexual assault. If the baby was conceived due to assault and the parent doesn't think they can raise it because of that, they can sign away their rights.
If the parent has ever gotten a sexual assault charge, this will raise a few flags in the family court. It's possible that they can lose their parental rights over it.
How to Prove Neglect
Unfortunately, it's not easy to prove abuse. The child can testify, but that doesn't always work. You can do a little additional reading to find out what to do in that case.
You need things like witnesses, medical records, copies of criminal convictions, and pictures. Concrete stuff that the judge can see.
Navigate Your Way Through the Family Court
It doesn't matter if you're a parent or a concerned family member, if you notice child abuse, there are ways for you to terminate the parent's rights. It's not easy to prove neglect, but attempting puts the child one step closer to finding a fitting home.
Taking care of a child who has been signed away takes a special hand. We can help guide you through it. Visit our site to read more articles on Child Development and Parenting.