Termination of Parental Rights

Smiling parents with two children sitting on ground

While it’s not common, there are times when the court sees fit to terminate the rights of one or even both parents.

When this occurs, the other parent either becomes the sole legal parent or the child, or if old enough, can be declared emancipated.

There are also times when this termination results in the child going into the foster care system or being placed with relatives.

Sad boy peeking through wooden fence
Child Custody vs. Parental Rights

What Causes Parental Rights to be Terminated?

There are a number of reasons the court can use to involuntarily terminate the rights of a parent.

Any type of severe abuse or chronic neglect will often result in termination of rights. This includes physical, mental, emotional, and sexual abuse of the child or of other children in the home.

Abandoning the family or failing to remain in contact with the child are other reasons why rights may be terminated.

If the parent suffers from long-term drug or alcohol abuse or has a mental illness, their rights may also be terminated on the grounds that they cannot provide the child with the support they need.

A parent who has been convicted of a felony, especially if that felony involved violence, may also face termination of their rights. This often happens if the parent is a single parent, is facing prison time, and there is no place for the child to go besides foster care.

Pair of untied child's shoes on step

Parental Responsibilities

When a parent’s rights are terminated, it’s generally because the court has evidence that the parent has not been fulfilling their responsibilities to their child.

These responsibilities include providing the child with a safe home, seeing that they receive an education, and are healthy or are receiving care for any health or mental illnesses. Parents who do not do these things may find themselves facing the court.

A parent who knows they cannot fulfill these responsibilities can voluntarily give up their parental rights. The KJ Law Firm can assist you in determining if that’s something you should consider.

Empty swing in children's playground

Foster Care and Rights Termination

When a child is placed in foster care, rights do not terminate automatically.

Instead, the state has to file a petition to terminate those rights. There are a number of guidelines that must be followed in order for the state to petition to dissolve parental rights.

If you’re facing this possibility, we can help you determine if the state has legal grounds to terminate your rights.

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Attorney Q & A about Parent’s Rights

Kristine participates in the “Ask a Lawyer” online community, a free service provided by Avvo, to help people get oriented toward solving their legal problems.

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Who has legal right to child?

“If a child is put in foster care and both parents who are separated fight for custody back of the child. Then, only one parent is given the child back does the other parent still have parental rights or custody?”

Above question asked by an Avvo member in Cullman, AL on September 24, 2018, linked here »

Response posted on Sep 26 by Kristine Jones:

“Typically, if a child is put in foster care, then DHR has temporary custody. If you and other parent are not legally divorced, then you are still married and therefore have equal access to the child. So, I would imagine both parents would have equal custody again. Custody between the two of you would be determined during the divorce process. This is very difficult to answer without looking at all the paperwork and knowing the details of the case. Best of luck!”

Read all of Kristine Jone’s responses by visiting Questions answered by Kristine Jones on Avvo ».