While a child’s birth parents are initially guaranteed certain parental rights and responsibilities, situations may arise where a parent loses or has these rights terminated.

Some parents voluntarily terminate their rights. A voluntary termination requires approval of the court and is typically only granted when an adoptive parent is ready and willing to take over parental responsibilities.  This is due to the fact that courts want a child to have the support of two parents whenever possible.  If voluntary termination is granted, that parent is completely absolved of all responsibilities to the child.  However, they also lose their rights for parenting time with the child and the right to make decisions on behalf of the child.

Parental rights can also be terminated involuntarily if it is deemed to be in the best interest of the minor child.[1] This process requires a court to find the parent unfit.  While a court may find a parent unfit for a myriad of reasons, they typically focus on the following factors:

Abandonment of the child or a failure to maintain a reasonable degree of interest as to the child’s welfare is a common factor courts consider when determining a parent’s fitness.  Courts also look to see if a parent is neglecting the child.  However, as involuntary termination of parental rights requires clear and convincing evidence that the parent is unfit, courts will only terminate a parent’s rights due to repeated incidents of substantial neglect, such as lengthy periods with any attempted contact and failure to provide any support to the child for a long period of time.  Further, courts can terminate parental rights due to extreme and/or repeated cruelty to the child.

Under normal circumstances, it is the burden of the party seeking to terminate parental rights to establish by clear and convincing evidence that a parent is unfit. This is often the other parent or the Division of Children and Family Services.  However, there are several situations where a rebuttable presumption of unfitness arises. First, if two or more findings of physical abuse have been entered against a parent, that parents must prove that they are a fit parent.  The same standard applies if a parent has been found responsible for the death of any child by physical abuse.

If a parent is found to be unfit and their parental rights terminated, it is possible for their rights to be reinstated.  A motion to reinstate parental rights may be filed by the Department of Children and Family Services or by a minor who is presently a ward of the court.[2] This is a difficult process and so if someone is attempting to terminate your parental rights, you do not want to wait until you are in the position of trying to get the decision reversed.

For more information regarding termination of parental rights and other juvenile and family law matters contact Sherer Law Offices at (618) 692-6656 or admin@shererlaw.com.


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