Parental Rights Termination

A Parental Rights Termination case is one of the gravest sets of circumstances a family law attorney may face. These types of cases have extremely high stakes and having an experienced lawyer to assist you throughout this process is extremely useful. Our attorneys here at Woodruff Family Law Group in Greensboro have both the experience and dedication to work with clients on this issue, as well as many other family legal matters. 

Under certain circumstances, you may have the other parent's rights terminated. This is a very intense proceeding that is known as the “death sentence” of family law. Having the other party’s rights ended essentially means that they have absolutely no entitlements or obligations whatsoever in regards to the child and are no longer legally considered the child’s parent. This means, for example, that while they would not have visitation rights anymore, they would no longer be liable for child support either.

According to N.C.G.S. §7B-1112, “an order terminating the parental rights completely and permanently terminates all rights and obligations of the parent to the juvenile and of the juvenile to the parent arising from the parental relationship.” N.C.G.S. §7B-1100 states that parental rights can be terminated “when the parents have demonstrated that they will not provide the degree of care which promotes the healthy and orderly physical and emotional well-being of the juvenile.”

There are several grounds for the termination of parental rights; these include:

1. The parent has abused or neglected the child.

2. Willfully leaving the child in foster care or placement outside the home for more than 12 months without showing reasonable progress under the circumstances to correct the conditions that led to removal. 

3. Failure to pay child support provided that the parent has the ability to pay the child support. If the parent is incapable of paying the child support, this is not held against him or her. However, if the parent is demonstrably capable of paying child support and has chosen not to do so, this is a ground used for terminating their parental rights. 

4. One parent has custody pursuant to a court order or agreement, and the other parent has failed to pay support as required by order or agreement for a year.

5. Failure to establish paternity, legitimate the child, and/or provide financial support or care.

6. Dependency.

7. Abandonment.

8. Committing a felony assault resulting in serious bodily injury, committing or abiding, abetting, attempting, conspiring, or soliciting to commit murder, voluntary manslaughter of another child or child residing in the home. 

9. The parental rights of the other party, with respect to a different child, have been terminated involuntarily, and the other parent lacks the ability or willingness to establish a safe home. 

Termination of Parental Rights cases are highly appealable since they affect a parent’s fundamental right to the integrity of the family unit. This means that to be successful in a Termination case you must be able to show that the other parent acted in a manner that is contrary to that right.

An example of acting contrary to the integrity of the family unit is a failure to pay child support for the minor child. In a recent case, Robinson v. Perkins, 767 S.E.2d 395 (2014), a biological father’s rights were terminated for failure to pay reasonable and consistent support payments. Here the father never paid support for the child. The father bought diapers for the child, but never delivered them. The court held that attempts or offers of support alone are not enough to establish that a parent has supported the child, there must be actual, real and tangible support.

Another example of grounds for Termination of Parental Rights is the neglect of a juvenile. In situations where there has been neglect in the past, the Court can look at the other parent’s prior behavior to determine if there is a substantial risk that the abuse or neglect will happen again. In re M.P.M., 776 S.E.2d 687 (2015).

As you can see from the wide variety of grounds for parental rights termination, this is a complex area of law with many different pieces. Having an experienced family law attorney can make this complicated process simpler and hopefully easier for you, considering the nature of the case. 

Make an initial consultation with Woodruff Family Law Group if you are interested in the prosecution or defense of these actions. We have experience in this area.