Termination of parental rights is the ultimate action that can be taken against a parent. It means the permanent severance of the legal relationship between a parent and child, including legal and physical custody of the child and access to the child. A termination petition may be filed by a child’s other parent or by people who want to adopt a child.
However, it is much more common for a termination petition to be filed by a social services agency or foster care agency in association with a child protection case that originated from abuse or neglect of a child. Termination of parental rights is a matter that attorneys and courts take very seriously. It is treated as an absolute last resort.
The North Carolina General Statutes specifically allow for termination of a parent’s rights, if a petitioner proves by “clear and convincing” evidence one or more of the following termination grounds:
- The parent has abused or neglected the child.
- The parent has “willfully” left the child in foster care or placed outside the home for over 12 months “without showing to the satisfaction of the court that reasonable progress under the circumstances has been made in correcting those conditions which led to the [child’s] removal.”
- The parent has failed to pay support for the child, who has been in the custody of the department of social services or some foster care agency for six consecutive months.
- The parent has failed to pay for the care, support, and education of a child, in violation of a custody agreement or decree, for a period of one year.
- The parent has a child out of wedlock and has not taken any steps to become acknowledged as the parent of the child or to support the child.
- The parent is “incapable” of caring for the child, for reasons such as substance abuse, mental retardation, mental illness, or an “organic brain syndrome”.
- The parent has willfully abandoned the child for six consecutive months.
- The parent has committed some egregious criminal act against another child or a child in their household, such as murder, voluntary manslaughter, or serious bodily injury.
- The parent’s rights have been involuntarily terminated as to another child and that the parent “lacks the ability or willingness to establish a safe home.”
- The parent has executed an irrevocable relinquishment of their parental rights to the child so that the child may be adopted.
- The parent perpetrated a criminal sexual offense that resulted in the child.
New Direction Family Law
Termination of parental rights is an option for a parent so seek against another. However, it is relatively rare as it is an option of last resort and has the highest burden of proof available in a civil case. If the other parent of your child has abused, neglected, or abandoned your child, contact New Direction Family Law to discuss your options. We will thoroughly review your circumstances and provide you with accurate, no-nonsense advice. Let us help you. We serve Wake, Johnston, Lee, Harnett, Cumberland, Nash, Granville, Franklin, and Durham counties. Call New Direction Family Law at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment or reach us online at our website.
Sarah J. Hink
New Direction Family Law