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Termination of Parental Rights

Sonia Nair Jan 23, 2019
Termination of parental rights is effected by a court order, which severs every relation between the parent and the child. Here is a brief overview about this legal concept.
Termination of parental rights means the severance of the relation between the parent(s) and the child, through a court order. Every state in the United States has individual statutes to this effect. Termination of parental rights can be voluntary, and in such cases, the parent(s) have to apply for relinquishment of such rights.
Involuntary termination forces the court to sever the parent-child relation; if it is proved that the move is in the best interest of the child, and the parent(s) are found unfit to look after the child.

Voluntary Termination

Voluntary relinquishment of parental rights may lead to its voluntary termination. The relevant laws may vary from one state to another. The parents voluntarily relinquish their parental rights over the child, in writing. For this purpose, the parents have to fill up the relevant forms, providing all the necessary information required by the court.
There must be a good cause for such a relinquishment. 'Good cause' is a legal term, which covers some circumstances deemed by the court, as valid reasons for such relinquishment. In most cases, adoption is considered a good cause.
Each state's statute regarding termination of parental rights has a list of good causes. Once the form is filed before the court, the court arranges some sort of counseling followed by a hearing, which should be attended by the parents and the child. If the court is satisfied with the cause of relinquishment, parents should sign the records before the judge.
The judge approves the relinquishment. Once approved, the relinquishment cannot be withdrawn; and this rule shows some relaxation towards parents of Indian children. For others, the only ground for withdrawal of relinquishment is to prove fraud regarding the whole procedure.

Involuntary Termination

Any person or organization can approach the concerned authorities demanding termination of parental rights. Unlike the voluntary relinquishment of such rights by the parents themselves; in this case, any person other than the parent(s) can move such a motion.
However, there should be valid reason for such a demand. Each state has a list of valid reasons in their statute. Again, the law may not be same in all states.
Some of the common grounds are abandonment or abuse of the child by the parent, parent being mentally unfit, and parent(s) involved in illegal activities. The request for termination of parental rights must be done by filing a petition, in the specified format.
The parents have the right to appoint a counsel to defend their part; and if they are not able to afford a counsel, the court can provide one. An order terminating parental rights can be issued by the court, after repeated counseling and proper hearing. The court has to be convinced that the parents are unfit to take care of the child.
The termination of parental rights can sever the right of one parent or both parents. If the parental right of one parent is terminated, this action does not affect the right of the other.
If the rights of both parents are terminated, then it is the duty of the state to take up the legal custody of the child; and the state has the obligation to find a permanent placement for the kid, within a reasonable time. This can be done in two ways - adoption or guardianship.
In some states, there is a chance for the parents to resume their parental rights, provided the state fails to find a permanent placement for the child, within a specified date; and the court is convinced of the fact that the parents can provide a safe home for the child.