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When can parental rights be terminated?

Courts don't terminated parental rights lightly. The child/parent relationship is a biological and emotional bond that we still don't fully understand despite modern science and knowledge, and terminating that relationship comes with a cost that must be carefully weighed. There are some instances where terminating the relationship is required for the safety and well-being of the child.

Courts will terminate parental rights in cases involving child abuse or neglect, but this isn't an automatic assumption. Parents who show remorse and seek treatment or assistance in such matters might retain rights or get rights back. Abuse that could be grounds for termination of parental rights can include sexual or physical abuse or extreme psychological abuse.

If a parent has shown over time to be incapable of caring correctly for children, the courts might terminate parental rights. This is especially true if the other parent or a potential guardian files a suit for rights. Alcoholism or drug abuse or mental illness can cause a parent to be unable to provide proper care for children. They are not, however, automatic reasons to terminate rights. You usually have to show that someone has engaged in this activity over a long period of time or has been unable to seek appropriate treatment.

In some cases, if a parent has been convicted of certain felonies and will be in prison too long to provide care for a child, rights might be terminated. The same is true if a child has been in foster case for a certain amount of time.

Whether you are seeking to protect your child by terminating parental rights of another person or you feel your parental rights are under threat, consider getting help from a family law professional. These matters can be scary and complex, and a third-party on your side can be reassuring and helpful.

Source: FindLaw, "Checklist: Grounds for Terminating Parental Rights," accessed Nov. 04, 2016

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