When Parents Stop Being Parents

What connects you to your child? Looks are probably one thing. Mannerisms and shared experiences may be other sources of connection, as are health and other inherited issues. These are all important, but in the eyes of the law, a parent is often viewed as being connected to their child by far less. Legally, many courts consider a parent to be connected to their child simply through a series of parental rights. These rights exist and, in a legal setting, can also be taken away. The process of taking such rights away is known as “termination of parental rights.”

Termination can occur if a court believes that either of a child’s parents is unfit to exercise custody over the child. Alternatively, the child’s parents themselves could also decide for themselves that it no longer makes sense to hold parental rights. Parents in this second case might give up their rights in order for adoption to take place. With adoption, parental rights would go to whoever was adopting their child. Regardless of the case, termination is a permanent measure that breaks all connection that a parent has with their child, placing them in the same (legal) status as that of any other stranger to the child.

A court may proceed with termination in several different ways. Termination may occur in juvenile dependency court, with a child becoming a ward of the court. This action occurs against the wishes of parents and it is usually taken when a court believes that there has been child abuse or neglect. Elsewhere termination of parental rights can occur in family court with adoption proceedings, domestic partner adoption proceedings, and emancipation proceedings. All these situations are very complex and detailed and should be approached with the utmost care and consideration of all the factors that go into a decision like this. If you find yourself in the midst of such a proceeding you are well-advised to do all you can to familiarize yourself with these proceedings and the courts involved because they all have their nuances and the law is highly specialized. Do not under any circumstances take these proceedings lightly; the future of your children and your future as a parent is in the crosshairs and clearly at risk.

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