Termination of Parental Rights

The termination of a biological parent’s rights to their child can happen for a number of reasons. There are two ways to terminate a parent’s rights: voluntarily and involuntarily. Either way, a court needs to determine whether a parent’s rights should be terminated. Regardless of if you are consenting to giving up your rights, or if you are contesting them being taken away, it is important to understand what this process is and how it can affect you.

Voluntary Termination

A voluntary termination happens when one parent decides they want to give up any and all rights to their biological child. This almost always happens when someone else wants to adopt the child and take the place of the parent who is terminating their rights. To adopt the child means that the adoptive parent is taking on all of the legal responsibilities for the child as if they were legally their biological parent. For the parent who is terminating their rights, they will lose any and all legal rights to that child.

To start this process, first a petition must be filed with the court. The parent who agrees to terminate their rights will have to sign a consent form, which will also be filed with the court for the judge to review. In addition to the consent form, the judge may also want to hear from the parent in a formal court proceeding. The judge will issue an order to the parties after the petition is filed setting a date and time for a termination hearing to take place.

If the judge is satisfied that all requirements for a voluntary termination have been met, then the judge will issue a decree terminating the biological parent’s rights to the child and will also schedule an adoption hearing. It is important to note that after the biological parent’s rights are terminated, they will receive no notice of the adoption hearing and will not know when this will take place.

If you are looking to terminate your rights, you must know that the termination is nonreversible. The biological parent has forever given up any rights to that child if they decide to terminate their rights. This can also have certain effects on child support cases. In most child support cases, the parent will still be responsible for any arrears on the support case but all future payments will cease on the date that the termination is final.

Involuntary Termination

When either the state or the other parent wants to terminate rights without the other parent’s consent, then an action can be filed with the court for an involuntary termination. If a parent should find themselves at risk of losing their parental rights, they have an opportunity to defend themselves at a hearing before a judge. Just because a petition has been filed does not mean that the judge will grant the request for termination.

Under the law in Pennsylvania, the following situations are grounds for an involuntary termination:

  • When the parent has had no contact with the child for a period of at least six months before the termination action.
  • If the parent has caused the child to be without essential parental care, control, or subsistence necessary for the child’s well-being and the parent cannot or will not remedy the issues.
  • If it is shown the parent is not the natural father of the child.
  • If the child is in the custody of an agency and the parent is unknown and no parent has come forward to claim the child within three months after the child is found.
  • If all of the following conditions are met: the child has been removed from the home or voluntarily given up, the conditions which led to the removal are still present, the parent either refuses or is unable to remedy the conditions, there aren’t adequate services available to remedy the conditions, AND the termination would best serve the needs of the child.
  • If the child is a newborn and the parent knows or has reason to know of the child but has made no effort to be part of the child’s life within four months following the birth.
  • If the child was conceived as a result of rape or incest.
  • If the child has been out of the home for 12 months, the conditions that caused the removal are still existent, AND the termination of rights would serve the needs of the child.
  • If the parent was convicted of certain crimes where the child or the child’s siblings are victims.

Whether the termination is voluntary or involuntary, the court will require certain burdens to be met before any termination can take place. These cases can be difficult to go through emotionally but can also turn into something very complex with the legal system.

If you have more questions about the termination of parental rights, please reach out to Lancaster Law Group, LLC today to set up a consultation with one of our skilled family law attorneys.