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Termination of Parental Rights

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Family Law - Termination of Parental Rights

Every State has statutes providing for the termination of parental rights. Termination of parental rights ends the legal parent-child relationship. Once the relationship has been terminated, the child is legally free to be placed for adoption with the objective of securing a more stable, permanent family environment that can meet the child's long-term parenting needs.

Grounds For termination of Parental Rights

Some States spell out factors that constitute grounds for termination of parental rights. Other States use general language. The most common statutory grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights include:

  • Severe or chronic abuse or neglect;
  • Abuse or neglect of other children in the household;
  • Abandonment;
  • Long-term mental illness or deficiency of the parent(s);
  • Long-term alcohol or drug-induced incapacity of the parent(s);
  • Failure to support or maintain contact with the child.

Termination of parental rights is a very serious matter. If your parental rights to your child are terminated, you will no longer have the right to visit with the child, speak to him or her on the telephone, communicate with the child by mail, or be told where the child is or what is happening to him or her. Your legal right to your relationship and your family's legal right to its relationship with your child will be permanently and completely ended. You will only be able to have contact with your child if the adoptive parents give you permission.

In most cases, termination of parental rights is voluntary, and the birthparents willingly relinquish their parental rights by signing the appropriate consent forms. (The time frame during which birthparents can "change their mind" about adoption after signing consent forms varies greatly from state to state; however, after the adoption is finalized, it is extremely difficult to overturn an adoption.)

The termination of parental rights action is not a criminal action. It is a civil action. You cannot be put in jail or subjected to any other criminal penalty if you lose this case. Although criminal charges may be brought against parents for child abuse or neglect, parents who are charged with those crimes usually are arrested close to the time DYFS removes their children from their care.


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