Termination of parental rights is based on a court order that permanently ends the legal relationship between a parent and a child. After the relationship has been severed, the child can be placed for adoption in a nurturing and secure family environment. Termination of parental rights can be voluntary or involuntary, depending on several factors.
There are several circumstances in which a voluntary termination is requested by a parent. Single expectant mothers and victims of rape or sexual abuse may choose to place an infant for adoption. Parents who have given birth to an infant with severe and irreversible birth defects may choose adoption as a means in which to provide medical and supportive care for their child. Surrogate mothers are required to terminate parental rights before the baby can be adopted by new parents. There are some instances in which an absent parent will consent to a voluntary termination of parental rights, especially if the custodial parent has re-married and the new spouse wishes to adopt the child.
All jurisdictions in the United States have statutes and regulations providing for the involuntary termination of parental rights by a court. Before ordering the involuntary termination of parental rights, courts must determine, through documented evidence, that the parent is unfit to care for the child. There are several grounds that warrant the termination of parental rights, including chronic abuse or neglect, unsafe or unsanitary living conditions, a documented history of alcohol or substance abuse and a history of sexual abuse or violence in the home. Serious felony convictions, including murder, aggravated assault, kidnapping or child abuse can be grounds for termination of parental rights.
During the pendency of an involuntary termination proceeding, the child is usually placed in a foster home. The Adoption and Safe Families Act, referred to as the ASFA, is a federal law enacted in 1997 for the purpose of facilitating the timely adoption of children in foster care. The law was established to promote national goals of safety, health and well-being of children. ASFA laws and procedures require the termination of parental rights if a child has been in foster care for 15 months in a recent 22 month-period.
There are circumstances in which you can contest the involuntary termination of your parental rights. The assistance of a child custody lawyer can help you locate programs and resources available to help you avoid termination of your parental rights.