What You Need to Know about Termination of Parental Rights
The threat of termination of parental rights. For most, this is the most upsetting experience of their lives. As experienced attorneys who have represented parents confronted with this issue, we get the devastation. We therefore think you need some basic information.
It’s not a secret. Whether a termination of parental rights is made on a voluntary or involuntary basis, it is an emotional decision. Surely, it is made with the best interests of the children. It often represents a recognition that the adult is not able to parent. Obviously, a variety of reasons can qualify as reasons to terminate parental rights. Let’s review them.
Reasons Cited for Termination of Parental Rights
Let’s start by clearing up a misconception. Some figure if they voluntarily terminate parental rights they won’t have to pay child support. Wrong. Unless the child is legally adopted, the child still has the right to receive support from both parents. Voluntarily termination of parental rights is on the parent’s end and cuts off contact with the child.
But, what about involuntarily termination of parental rights? How does that work? And, what are some of the reasons?
You may be familiar with New Jersey’s Department of Child Protection and Permanency (formerly the Division of Youth and Family Services), also known as DCP&P. If they have reason to believe there are issues with a parent, they investigate the situation. They also apprise the court of their findings. And, make recommendations to ensure the safety of the child. They are the ones who may determine that a parent’s rights should be terminated.
According to the law, these are the reasons that a parent’s rights may be terminated if it is in the best interests of the child, meaning the following:
- The child’s safety, health or development has been or will continue to be endangered by the parental relationship;
- The parent is unwilling or unable to eliminate the harm facing the child or is unable or unwilling to provide a safe and stable home for the child and the delay of permanent placement will add to the harm. Such harm may include evidence that separating the child from his resource family parents would cause serious and enduring emotional or psychological harm to the child;
- The division has made reasonable efforts to provide services to help the parent correct the circumstances which led to the child’s placement outside the home and the court has considered alternatives to termination of parental rights; and
- Termination of parental rights will not do more harm than good.
An application to terminate parental rights can also be made if there is are issues concerning possible child abandonment.