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Can your parental rights be terminated?

While it is possible to have your parental rights terminated, it is not easy for either the state or the other parent to have this done. The law generally presumes that it is in the best interests of the child to have both parents involved in child rearing, and this is why joint custody is usually awarded. However, in some extreme circumstances, the court could terminate your parental rights. Your parental rights can be terminated in any number of different scenarios, but they typically fall into three categories:

  • The parent is abusive.
  • The parent is absent or inactive in raising the child.
  • The parent lacks the capacity to competently raise the child.

The courts will intervene in instances of chronic or severe abuse, sexual abuse or violent and criminal actions taken against the child or another family member. In these obvious and extreme scenarios, the parent clearly lacks the ability to empathize and raise their child. In such cases, the state will likely act to terminate parental rights.

The courts will also intervene if the state or ex-spouse offers evidence of chronic neglect, abandonment or failure to provide support. Again, this seems obvious, if a parent refuses to support or participate in the child's life, then clearly that parent does not wish to exercise parental rights. Therefore, the court will terminate rights.

Courts can also intervene if it is found that the parent lacks the capacity to raise the child. These scenarios can be heart-breaking because the parent may love the child but have an addiction or mental illness or disease that impedes their ability to raise the child.

If you believe that your parental rights may be subject to termination, then you may want to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible. You are able to defend yourself and stave off these allegations, but it will take time to prepare and mount a cohesive legal strategy. Sometimes the best way to show that you want to maintain parental rights is by fighting to keep them.

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