A lot of our lives revolve around our children. They represent our plans, our hopes, and the future of our families. In fact, parental rights are a fundamental right that have constitutional magnitude. Unfortunately, these rights are not absolute, and there are ways that a parent can fail a child to an extent that opens their parental rights to limitations and even termination of those rights.
Termination of parental rights proceedings are very serious and can result in the permanent severance of the parent-child relationship. Therefore, termination is unusual, and courts treat it as an option of last resort.
Who Can Seek Termination of Parental Rights?
There are numerous people or entities that can seek termination of a parent’s right. Terminations most commonly occur in the context of child abuse and neglect cases in which a county’s social service agency or a court appointed guardian seeks termination of a parent’s rights in order to allow a child to have a “permanent plan of care at the earliest possible age.” In addition, a parent can seek the termination of the other parent’s rights, and so can a person who has had continuous care of the child for at least two years.
The person or agency seeking to terminate parental rights must meet a “clear and convincing evidence” burden of proof, which is the highest burden in civil cases.
What Does that Person or Agency Need to Show?
To obtain the termination of parental rights, the person or agency seeking the termination must prove that it is in the best interest of the child to do so. Courts have broad discretion in what they can consider when it comes to the child’s best interest.
In addition, the person or agency seeking termination must prove one of the statutory grounds for terminating a parent’s rights has occurred. Below is a list of some of the most common reasons following
- The parent has abused or neglected the child;
- The parent has left the child in foster care or in a placement outside the home for longer than 12 months and has failed to remedy the reasons the child was removed from their home;
- The child has been in foster care for six months and the parent has failed to provide support for the child;
- A non-custodial parent has failed to pay child support for a year or longer in accordance with a court order or agreement;
- A father of a child born out of wedlock has failed to establish paternity, legitimate the child, or pay support for the child;
- A parent lacks the capacity to parent the child;
- A parent has willfully abandoned the child for at least six months;
- A parent has committed murder, manslaughter, or serious injury of another child of the parent or another child in the household;
- A parent’s rights have previously been involuntarily terminated as to another child;
- A parent sexually assaulted the child’s mother, resulting in the birth of the child; or
- A parent has relinquished their parental rights to the child voluntarily.
Let New Direction Family Law Assist You
New Direction Family Law is a family law firm that often represents people who need assistance with child custody issues. Our attorneys are compassionate and professional, and they are highly motivated to protect our clients’ legal interests. If you need help, contact our team today. We proudly serve clients in Wake, Johnston, Durham, and surrounding counties. Contact New Direction Family Law today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation, or visit us at our website.
Carly G. Baker
New Direction Family Law