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Termination of Parental Rights in NC

Grounds to Terminate Parental Rights in NC

Termination of parental rights (TPR) can occur voluntarily or involuntarily. In both cases, it’s important for parents to recognize that TPR ends the legal parent-child relationship, which can have far-reaching impacts in the short-term and long term. That said, it’s important to speak with a lawyer for counsel and guidance through the process, regardless of either the termination is voluntary or involuntary. You want to have a clear understanding of your legal rights during and after the process, and an attorney can provide this clarity.

In the meantime, you could benefit from having a general understanding of the voluntary and involuntary termination of parental rights, which we explain below.

Voluntarily Terminating Parental Rights

You may be surprised to learn that a parent may willingly relinquish their legal parent-child relationship, but in reality, voluntary termination of parental rights is common with domestic infant adoptions. Rarely does a parent who developed a relationship with their child voluntarily end their rights. That said, a parent who wants to place their child for adoption is mandated to end their legal parent-child relationship.

To complete this process, birther mothers are required to legally consent to the voluntary termination and birth fathers must establish paternity before obtaining the right to consent or contest the termination. From there, either one or both parents will go to a court hearing to testify that their signatures are valid, they understand the repercussions of the termination, and their consent is voluntary. However, the birth mother or birth father may revoke their consent during this court hearing for reasons including:

  • The parents testify that the consent was obtained by fraud or coercion
  • The revocation of consent is found to be in the child’s best interest
  • The birth and adoptive parents mutually agree to withdraw consent

With these factors in mind, parents do not have the right to consent to the voluntary termination of their parental rights under any of the following circumstances:

  • They have abandoned their child
  • They failed to support or establish a relationship with the child
  • They committed certain crimes against the child or the other parent
  • They have not established paternity

If any of these above factors apply, a parent’s rights may be involuntarily terminated, which brings us to our next point.

North Carolina Grounds for Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights

The state of North Carolina can terminate a parent’s rights if circumstances call for it. This is a worst-case scenario for all parties involved, including the state, which is why reasonable efforts are often made to restore a healthy parent-child relationship before the state intervenes and works to relinquish a parent’s rights. If such reasonable efforts to keep the family together have failed, child welfare may take charge.

As such, a parent’s rights may be terminated involuntarily under circumstances such as:

  • The parent has abused or neglected the child
  • The parent has willfully left the child in foster care or placement outside the home for more than 12 months without showing that reasonable progress under the circumstances has been made in correcting the conditions that led to the child’s removal (poverty is an exception to this rule)
  • The child has been placed in the custody of a county DSS, a licensed child-placing agency, a child-caring institution, or foster home, and the parent willfully failed to pay a reasonable portion of the childcare costs, despite having the means to do so, for a continuous period of 6 months before the filing of the petition or motion
  • One parent has custody of the child, and the other parent has willfully failed, without justification, to pay for the child’s care, support, and education for 1 year as required by the court order or custody agreement
  • The father of a child born out of wedlock has not done the following before the filing of the termination petition or motion
    • Established paternity judicially or by affidavit
    • Legitimated the child pursuant or filed a petition for that purpose
    • Legitimated the child by marriage to the mother
    • Provided substantial financial support or consistent care with respect to the child and mother
  • The parent is incapable of providing for the proper care and supervision of the child
  • The parent has willfully abandoned the child for at least 6 consecutive months immediately before the filing of the petition or motion, or the parent has voluntarily abandoned an infant for at least 60 consecutive days immediately preceding the filing of the petition or motion
  • The parent has committed any of the following offenses:
    • Murder or voluntary manslaughter of another child of the parent or other child residing in the home
    • Aided, abetted, attempted, conspired, or solicited to commit murder or voluntary manslaughter of the child, another child of the parent, or other child residing in the home
    • A felony assault that results in serious bodily injury to the child, another child of the parent, or other child residing in the home
  • A parent’s rights over their other child have been terminated involuntarily by a court of competent jurisdiction and the parent lacks the ability or willingness to establish a safe home

Determining the Child’s Best Interests

The above factors play a significant role in determining whether a parent’s rights should be involuntarily terminated. However, the child comes first and foremost in these matters. For this reason, a judge will evaluate several factors that are considered to be in the child’s best interests, which include:

  • The child’s age
  • The child’s likelihood of adoption
  • Whether termination will help achieve the permanent plan for the child
  • The bond between the child and the parent
  • The quality of the relationship between the child and the proposed adoptive parent, guardian, custodian, or other permanent placement
  • Any other relevant consideration

With these best interest factors in mind, a judge may consider holding off on the termination proceeding if they believe that further efforts can be made to help maintain a legal parent-child relationship. Thus, if your parental rights are at stake of being terminated involuntarily, know that not all hope is lost.

Questions About Your Situation? We’ve Got Answers.

As you can see, the termination of parental rights is not entirely what it sounds like. A parent may voluntarily end their parent-child relationship to place their child for adoption so they can have a better life. Involuntary termination could also seem best for the child at first, but that is not always the case. That said, if you are considering terminating your parental rights voluntarily or are at risk of losing these rights involuntarily, we can provide the guidance and support you need to navigate these uncharted waters.

Our family law specialists have the experience and insights needed to help you understand your rights thoroughly and make the best possible decision for you and your family. Get in touch with our firm online or at (704) 343-8811 to get started!

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