At the Law Office of Stephen Ross in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, our attorneys provide compassionate assistance for families seeking to terminate a biological parent's rights to clear the way for a child's adoption.
How to Terminate Parental Rights
Several different methods are used to terminate parental rights, including:
- Voluntary relinquishment: A natural parent's rights may be terminated by having a petition filed, which includes a signed consent by the birth parent. If this is the avenue taken, then the birth parent must appear at the hearing. Generally, consent cannot be signed until 72 hours after birth. Thirty days after a written consent is signed, it becomes irrevocable and this time period cannot be waived. A revocation is effective by delivering a written notice to the agency, attorney or court. After the 30-day period, the consent may only be challenged upon proof of fraud or duress.
- Involuntary termination: The natural parent's rights may be terminated based upon that parent's failure to act as a parent. The adoption act specifically sets out lists of acts or failures to act.
The rights of a parent to a child may be terminated after a petition is filed on any of the following grounds:
- The parent by conduct continuing for a period of at least six months immediately preceding the filing of a petition either has evidenced a settled purpose of relinquishing parental claim to a child or has refused or failed to perform parental duties. The settled purpose or the failure to perform is enough to have one's rights terminated. Parental duties are more than financial obligations; being a parent requires a continuing interest in the child and a genuine effort to maintain communication and association with the child. It requires the parent to assert himself or herself to take and maintain a place of importance in the child's life. It is a positive duty that requires affirmative performances. A parent must utilize all available resources to preserve the parent-child relationship. Even in situations where the custodial parent has deliberately created obstacles intended to stop the formation of the relationship or continued relationship with the noncustodial parent, the noncustodial parent must use “reasonable firmness” in resisting the obstacles placed in the path of maintaining the relationship.
- The repeated and continued incapacity, abuse, neglect or refusal of the parent has caused the child to be without essential parental care, control or subsistence necessary for his physical or mental well-being, and the conditions and causes of the incapacity, abuse, neglect or refusal cannot or will not be remedied by the parent.
- The parent is the presumptive but not the natural parent of the child.
- The child is in the custody of an agency because the identity of the parent is unknown and cannot be ascertained by diligent search, and the parent does not claim the child within three months after the child is found.
- The child has been removed from the care of the parent by court or under voluntary agreement with an agency for a period of at least six months, the conditions which led to the removal of the child continue to exist, the parent cannot or will not remedy those conditions within a reasonable time, the services available to the parent are not likely to remedy the conditions that led to the removal or placement of the child within a reasonable period of time and termination of the parental rights would serve the needs and welfare of the child.
- In the case of a newborn, the parent knows or has reason to know of the child's birth, does not reside with the child, has not married the child's other parent, has failed for a period of four months immediately preceding the filing of the petition to make reasonable efforts to maintain substantial and continuing contact with the child and has failed during the same four-month period to provide substantial financial support for the child.
- The parent is the father of a child conceived as a result of rape or incest.
- The child has been removed from the care of a parent by the court or voluntarily to an agency, 12 months or more have elapsed from the date of removal or placement, the conditions that led to the removal or placement of the child continue to exist and termination of parental rights would best serve the needs and welfare of the child.
- The parent has been convicted of criminal homicide, aggravated assault, or attempt, solicitation or conspiracy to commit these crimes in which the victim was a child of the parent.
In terminating the rights of a parent, the court shall give primary consideration to the developmental, physical and emotional needs and welfare of the child. The right of a parent shall not be terminated solely on the basis of environmental factors such as inadequate housing, furnishings, income, clothing and medical care if found to be beyond the control of the parent. When a petition is file under a, f, or h above, the court shall not consider any efforts by the parent to remedy the conditions that were first initiated after being given notice of the filing of the petition to terminate parental rights.
Further, when the court issues its termination order to the parents whose rights have been terminated, the court shall advise the parent of his or her continuing right to place and update personal and medical history information — whether or not the medical condition is in existence or discoverable at the time of the adoption — on file with the court and the department of public welfare.
Notice of the termination proceeding must be given to the birth parent or guardian of the birth parent under the age of 18 at least 10 days prior to the hearing. Should the birth parent be unable to be located, the notice must be published once a week for a period of three weeks in a legal periodical and in a paper of general circulation at or near the birth parent's last known residence within the county or in such other matter that the court directs.
Contact Our Montgomery County Child Custody Lawyers
For more information, Contact us to schedule a consultation with our Pottstown termination of parental rights attorneys. We serve families in Montgomery County, Chester County, Berks County, Philadelphia County, Lancaster County and surrounding counties in Pennsylvania.