This is a legal process involving a court hearing during which a judge issues a decree that permanently ends all legal parental rights of a birth parent to a child. This must occur before a child is considered to be legally free for adoption. Termination of parental rights can be voluntary or involuntary, that is, with or without the birthparents' agreement. In some states, there is a period during which the birthparent may appeal, if rights have been terminated without his or her consent. The length of that period varies from state to state.
The first legal step in adoption is the termination of the parental rights of a child's birthparents. The final step is the finalization of adoption in court, making you your child's permanent, legal parents. Along the way, there are many points where adoption laws will have an effect on your child's adoption.
A case to terminate parental rights is considered a suit affecting the parent-child relationship (or “SAPCR” for short). Termination of parental rights is the legal process where the court ends the parent-child relationship between a child and one or both of the child’s parents.
However, even with a signed voluntary relinquishment or wavier of interest, parental rights are not terminated until a judge signs a court order terminating those rights. A voluntary relinquishment or waiver of interest is not enough.
In certain circumstances, a man mistakenly named as a child’s legal father can ask a court to terminate his parental rights. This toolkit tells you about filing a mistaken paternity case. FORMS ARE INCLUDED.
The law limits the amount of time a child may stay in foster care by establishing shorter timelines for determining when she or he must have a plan for permanency. The law states that permanency court hearings must be held for children no later than 12 months after they enter foster care and the law also states that termination of parental rights proceedings must begin for any child who has been in the care of a state agency for 15 out of the most recent 22 months. Exceptions may be made to this requirement if the child is in the care of a relative or for other compelling reasons.
Prior Termination: Requires documentation of the prior termination including a certified copy of the Order of Termination, a copy of petition, and a copy of the social study or report that was filed with the petition. Copies of current medical records, police records and psychological evaluations should also be obtained. A psychological assessment that the parent is currently unable to discharge parental responsibilities due to the same cause cited in the previous determination may be necessary.
Relinquishment: If including a parent who has relinquished in a petition to terminate the other parent's rights, requires submission of the original, signed relinquishment forms to the court.
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The type of documentation needed for Termination of Parental Rights depends on the grounds upon which termination will be sought such as the following:
Document the compelling reason that termination of parental rights is not in the child's best interests in Section I Permanency Goal of the Case Plan.
Create a new Adoption case record for each child whose parental rights have been terminated and the case plan goal for the child is adoption even if the order terminating parental rights is on appeal. The parent's case record may be maintained for ongoing services to other family members or, if no services are planned, the case record is closed.
Inform the parent(s) of the pending court proceeding to terminate the parent-child relationship; the consequences of the proceedings and actions that the parent(s) must take including responding to the petition through the parent's attorney or requesting the court appoint an attorney; if not already appointed.
Convene a case conference to determine whether termination of the parental rights is in the child's best interest, and if it appears there may be sufficient grounds for a petition. Include the Attorney General's Office, child's attorney, DCS Specialist and supervisor and others considered necessary.