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The Process of Terminating Parental Rights

Parental rights are the legal rights of a parent to make major decisions regarding a child’s healthcare, education, and religion, as well as to take certain actions on behalf of a child. Biological parents, foster or adoptive parents, and legal guardians who may claim parental rights. Terminating someone’s parental rights takes away that person’s ability to make child-related decisions. It may be in a child’s best interests to terminate a co-parent’s parental rights in certain situations. Prepare yourself for this process by talking with a Fort Mill child custody attorney. Here is what you can expect.

Qualifying for Parental Right Termination

In South Carolina, the Children’s Code Section 63-7-2570 lists the grounds on which the state courts may grant a petition for the termination of parental rights. Before you file your petition, determine whether this is the right choice for you. The courts will generally grant a request for parental right termination if it’s in the best interests of the child. This happens most often in the following situations, among others:

  • If the other parent has abused or neglected the child, and it is not likely that said parent can make the home safe for the child within the next 12 months.
  • If the family courts have previously removed a child from the custody of the parent upon evidence of child abuse or neglect, and the child has been out of the home for at least six months.
  • If the child has lived without the parent for at least six months, and during that time the parent has not willfully visited the child or supported the child.
  • If the parent is not the child’s biological father, and if terminating parental rights will best serve the child’s welfare.
  • If the parent has a drug or alcohol addiction, mental illness, or physical disability that results in the inability to care for the child.

Terminating parental rights is a permanent action that severs the relationship between the parent and child. From a legal standpoint, the individual will no longer be the child’s parent. Before you file your petition, make sure this choice is right for your family. Then, consider hiring a family law attorney to help you with the filing process.

Filing a Petition in South Carolina

If you believe you have a good chance of the courts granting your request for terminating parental rights, proceed with filing your petition. Go to your local county court and request a petition for termination. Include in your petition the child’s name, sex, birthdate, and place of birth; your name, address, and relationship with the child; both parents’ names; the grounds supporting your petition, and any relevant facts. You or someone else will need to serve all parties involved – including the child if he/she is at least 14 – summons and a notice of the right to counsel.

A Family Court Date

Once all parties receive notice of the summons, contact a family attorney for assistance with the presentation and proving of your case. You will need to prove that grounds exist to grant the request to terminate someone’s parental rights, often with factual evidence of the other parent’s incompetence in caring for the child. You must prove your case with clear and convincing evidence. The judge will listen to your case, review the facts, and ultimately decide according to the best interests of the child.

What Happens Next?

A judge may deny a request if he/she believes a child is better off with both parents. If this happens, you may be able to appeal the decision with help from a lawyer. If the judge grants the request, all rights and obligations between the parent in question and the child will cease to exist (other than a child’s right to inheritance). If a court orders termination of both parents’ parental rights, someone else may then adopt the child.