Terminating Parental Rights

Family courts in North Carolina generally promote maintaining the parent-child relationship, even when the parent is going through tough times. However, it may be in the child's best interest to sever ties with one or both parents so the child can be cared for in a stable and loving household. The birth parents may even agree to voluntarily give up parental rights for the well-being of the child. If you have questions about terminating parental rights to adopt a child, talk to your North Carolina family law attorney about the legal process and your options. 

Alternatively, some loving parents may face the threat of losing parental rights when the other parent has met a new partner and they want to take the child away from the other parent, or the state thinks the parent is unfit to care for the child. If you are a parent that has been served notice of a petition to terminate your parental rights, contact your North Carolina family law attorneys to defend your rights as a parent. 

Terminating Parental Rights in North Carolina

Terminating parental rights is a serious matter and should not be taken lightly. It can permanently take away the parental rights of a child's birth parents and give parenting rights to new parents. Parental rights can be terminated voluntarily, against the parents' will, or where the parent has been absent from the child's life. 

Grounds for Terminating Parental Rights

Grounds for terminating parental rights are provided by North Carolina Statute § 7B-1111. The grounds for terminating parental rights include (but are not limited to) the following.

  1. The parent has abused or neglected the juvenile.
  2. The parent has willfully left the juvenile in foster care or placement outside the home for more than 12 months without showing that reasonable progress has been made in correcting those conditions which led to the removal of the juvenile. 
  3. One parent has willfully failed without justification to pay for the care, support, and education of the juvenile, as required by the decree or custody agreement.
  4. The father of a juvenile born out of wedlock has not filed an affidavit of paternity, legitimated the juvenile, established paternity, or provided substantial financial support or consistent care with respect to the juvenile and mother.
  5. The parent is incapable of providing for the proper care and supervision of the dependent juvenile and the incapability will continue for the foreseeable future.
  6. The parent has willfully abandoned the juvenile for at least six consecutive months, or voluntarily abandoned an infant pursuant for at least 60 consecutive days. 
  7. The parent has committed murder or voluntary manslaughter of another child of the parent or other child residing in the home. 
  8. The parental rights of the parent with respect to another child of the parent have been terminated involuntarily by a court of competent jurisdiction, and the parent lacks the ability or willingness to establish a safe home.
  9. The parent has consented or relinquished the juvenile to be put up for adoption, termination of parental rights is a condition precedent to adoption, and the parent does not contest the termination of parental rights.
  10. The parent has been convicted of a sexually related offense that resulted in the conception of the juvenile.

Beyond the legal grounds for terminating a parent's rights, the court may also consider whether termination is truly in the best interests of the child. 

Process for Terminating Parental Rights

  1. Either parent seeking termination of the other parent. 
  2. Judicially appointed guardian of the child. 
  3. Department of social services or licensed child-placing agency with custody of the child. 
  4. Person with whom the child has resided for continuously for two years or more immediately before filing the petition. 
  5. Guardian ad Litem appointed to represent the child.
  6. Person who has filed a petition for adoption.

The petition is also to provide facts sufficient to support a finding that one or more grounds for termination exist. 

When the Parent is Unknown   

The identity of the parent is unknown, the court will conduct a hearing to determine the parent's name or identity. If the court is unable to identify the parent, the court will order publication of the termination notice in a qualifying newspaper. If the unknown parent does not respond within the provided time, the court will issue an order terminating that parent's rights. 

Contesting Termination of Parental Rights in North Carolina

When a parent is served notice of a petition to terminate parental rights, the parent must file an answer within 30 days or the parent's rights may be terminated. There may be a number of ways for a parent to contest the petition, including challenging the grounds for terminating parental rights, or that the individual only recently learned that they were the parent of the child. 

Contact an experienced North Carolina family law attorney as soon as possible if you learn that there is a petition to terminate your parental rights. Once the rights have been terminated, it can be extremely difficult to reverse the ruling. 

North Carolina Family Law Firm in Shelby

If you have any questions about termination of parental rights in North Carolina, the skilled attorneys at Caulder & Valentine are here to help. Contact us today for a consultation.