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Reinstatement of Parental Rights After Termination

Depending on where you live, you may be able to have your parental rights reinstated after they have been terminated by a court. While all states have provisions in the law for the termination of parental rights, most states do not allow for the reinstatement of these rights. But even in states that allow reinstatement, parents must be able to show an extraordinary improvement in their ability to properly care for a child before a court will grant such a request.

This article focuses on the restoration of parental rights after termination (see Terminating Parental Rights), with examples of select state laws.

Termination and Reinstatement of Parental Rights

When a court orders the termination of parental rights, the legal relationship between a parent and child ceases to exist. It is very rare and only occurs in especially serious cases, such as those involving child abuse or severe child neglect. And even though a parent may petition the court to voluntarily give up his or her parental rights, the main consideration is always the child's best interests. Laws allowing reinstatement were drafted generally in response to older children who were aging out of foster care and wanted to re-establish family ties.

Since this process is handled in state courts, the laws and procedures vary from one state to the next. At least nine states have laws allowing for reinstatement following termination of parental rights (including California, Illinois, North Carolina, and New York). Usually, reinstatement is available only on the condition that the child has not been permanently placed with a foster home within a given period of time.

In states where this is available, a parent must file a petition with the court that originally terminated his or her parental rights. The court will determine whether the parent is fit to provide a safe and nurturing home for the child.

Differences in State Laws

Most states that allow for the reinstatement of parental rights require "clear and convincing" evidence that the parent is fit to care for their child. Nevada law has a much lower standard of proof ("preponderance of the evidence"), while North Carolina law even allows hearsay evidence in court proceedings if it is considered "relevant, reliable and necessary" to determine a child's best interests.

The qualifications for petitioning the court for reinstatement also vary from state to state. For instance, Alaska law restricts this remedy to only those who voluntarily relinquished their parental rights; Louisiana law allows children in foster care over the age of 15 to petition for reinstatement of their parents' rights; and Washington law does not specify who may or may not petition the court.

The following examples illustrate the differences in state laws:

  • California: For eligibility, three years must pass from the date of termination (unless it is determined earlier that the child is not likely to be adopted); court must identify a factual basis for a finding that reinstatement is in the child's best interest if the child is under 12.
  • Nevada: Only the child or legal guardian of the child may petition the court to reinstate the natural parent's rights; children 14 or older must consent to a reunion with an estranged parent, while the court must indicate a factual basis for reinstatement for children under 14.
  • New York: Two years must pass after the date of termination in order to be eligible; the state advises birth parents who are granted reinstatement, helping to develop a reunification plan and transition services.

Get Started Reinstating Your Parental Rights with a Free Case Review

Few things are as painful as losing one's parental rights, but those who clean up their act and take the necessary steps can have those rights reinstated. Get started today by having a family law attorney review the particulars of your case, at no cost to you.

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