Parents in the parent-child relationship are expected to cater to the needs and welfare of their children. With these expectations come some basic rights and responsibilities that must be fulfilled to a reasonable extent and can be informed to you by a Spokane family lawyer.

Parents are by the law granted an automatic authority to make decisions in the best interest of the child. These decisions may affect certain areas of the child’s life including education, health care, religion, and other important developmental areas. However, in some cases, a court may determine that one or both of the parents are not entitled to these rights over the child, this may lead to the revocation of the parental rights and responsibilities.

The most common reasons why a court may decide to take these rights away involve the misuse of such rights, violation of the law regarding the rights or in the case where the child’s father fails to claim paternity of the child.

Parental rights revocation may also be self-initiated, that is, a parent may choose to voluntarily give away their rights on their child. It is important however to note that parental rights termination ends the legal relationship between a parent and the child.

Termination of Parental Rights: The Involuntary Termination Process

Parental rights termination can be voluntary or involuntary. In most states, certain statues spell out what a parent can do to earn an involuntary termination of their legal relationship with their child or children. While state-wise statutes may differ, below are some of the most common reasons for involuntary termination of parental rights.

  • Sexual abuse
  • Chronic or severe abuse of child neglect
  • Abuse or neglect of other children in the household
  • Child abandonment
  • Failure to support the child
  • Failure to maintain contact with the child
  • Long term deficiency of the parent
  • Long term mental illness suffered by the parent
  • Alcohol or drug-induced incapacity of the parent over a long term
  • Involuntary termination of parental rights to another child.

In some other cases, a parent may lose their parental rights when they are convicted of certain felonies. Cases which may warrant the termination of parental rights include cases of violence against a child or other family members. A court may deem a parent unfit for the role and responsibilities associated when they have exhibited certain degrees of violence.

Also, in a case where a parent is required to be imprisoned for a long time, the child may be entered into foster care in the absence of other alternatives and this may eventually lead to the loss of parental rights.

Foster Care

Whether a parent has been deemed incapable of supporting their child or has been sent to prison for a long time, the child may be left with no other option than to be entered into foster care. In the event that the termination of parental rights and responsibilities leave such a child with no guardian, a court may determine that such a child should be put in foster care.

However, before the court on behalf of the state takes such action, a petition must be filed under the Federal Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA).

A petition may, however, be overlooked in certain situations. Situations where the court may overlook petitions include;

  • The parent of the child had committed a felony assault, which has resulted in serious bodily injury to the child or another child in the household.
  • The parent of the child had committed murder or voluntary manslaughter of another of their children.
  • The court has determined that the child is an abandoned infant.
  • The child has been placed in foster care for at least 15 months of the last 22 months
  • The parents have been named parties in murder or voluntary manslaughter of another of their children. That is, if the parent has been convicted of aiding and abetting, soliciting the act, conspired to carry out the act or attempted to carry out the act.

Many states across the United States are adopting refined and reviewed statutes to protect children from harm and dangerous situations that may threaten their lives even when under the care of their parents. The adopted statutes are also contributing to the shortening of the wait times required for parental rights to be terminated so that such a child can safely be placed in foster care where their safety is guaranteed to a large extent.

Most states in the United States however also have guidelines that may exempt the child from foster care and instead put them in care and custody of a relative or family member who has demonstrated the interest of the child to be a priority.

What is the child’s best interest?

When deciding on cases such as child custody, parental rights termination and others relating to the welfare of a child, the court considers mostly the best interest of the child.

While in some states, a general language that spells the child’s health, safety, and welfare out is considered to be the best interest of the child, in other states, there are specific factors that are placed into consideration.

Some of the factors that may be considered include the physical, mental, emotional, and moral well-being of the child, the age of the child, the cultural impact and background of the child as well as attachment issues.

Also, a child’s reasonable preferences may be accommodated in issues such as this.

Reinstating Parental Rights

Reinstatement of parental rights is a tricky business depending on the state. In most states, once a parent’s rights have been terminated, they can no longer be reinstated, however, some conditions and circumstances may lead to further consideration of such a parent.

A parent may be considered for reinstatement when the child has not been permanently put in a foster home. Such a parent may be able to file a petition seeking the reinstatement of their parental rights while providing evidence to show that they are fit to provide a safe environment for the child.

Terminating Parental Rights Voluntarily

Parents may choose to voluntarily give up their rights to their children. Doing this means they wish to put the child up for adoption. The United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Information Gateway provides information on how to proceed with such a decision.