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How much do you know about the termination of parental rights?

In today's post, we'll start exploring one of the more significant -- and often more difficult -- areas of family law: the termination of parental rights. Here, the purpose of the post is not only to provide some much-needed insight, but also to debunk some of the more prevalent misconceptions about this topic.

What exactly does it mean when a person's parental rights are terminated?

Just like the term implies, the termination of parental rights means that a person is no longer viewed as parent to a child in the eyes of the law. What this means is that they lose their right to visit the child, and their right to decide how the child is cared for and raised. Furthermore, it means that the child can be adopted without their permission.

Just like the term implies, the termination of parental rights means that a person is no longer viewed as parent to a child in the eyes of the law. What this means is that they lose their right to visit the child, and their right to decide how the child is cared for and raised. Furthermore, it means that the child can be adopted without their permission.

Why would a court decide to terminate someone's parental rights?

In general, a court will terminate parental rights if it decides that such a step is necessary to protect the child's health, safety and welfare. In other words, this step helps get the child out of dangerous or otherwise unfavorable situations.

Are parental rights always terminated under such dramatic circumstances?

Sometimes a parent might voluntarily agree to terminate their parental rights if they believe it's in the child's best interests and other circumstances are present. For instance, a person might voluntarily agree to a termination of their parental rights if their former partner has married someone who wishes to adopt the child, or a family member has agreed to assume the duties of raising the child.  

What about involuntary termination?

Involuntary termination occurs when the court decides to terminate parental rights despite the objections of the parent. It's important to understand that the loss of parental rights may have profound future implications as the county could theoretically file a petition seeking to have parental rights terminated the moment any additional children are born.

We'll continue to explore this topic in future posts, including taking a look at the process by which parental rights are terminated.

Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional if you have questions about child custody, visitation or other pressing family law matters.

Source: Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, "Termination of parental rights," Accessed Jan. 30, 2015

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