Terminating Parental Rights
Every state (and the District of Columbia) has statutes providing for the termination of parental rights. Termination of parental rights ends the legal parent-child relationship.
Grounds for Termination of Rights
Some states spell out factors that constitute grounds for termination of parental rights. Other states use general language. The most common statutory grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights include:
- Severe or chronic abuse or neglect;
- Abuse or neglect of other children in the household;
- Long-term mental illness or deficiency of the parent(s);
- Long-term alcohol or drug-induced incapacity of the parent(s);
- Failure to support or maintain contact with the child.
Another common ground for termination is a felony conviction of the parent(s) for a crime of violence against the child or other family member, or a conviction for any felony when the term of conviction is such a length as to have a negative impact on the child and the only available provision of care for the child is foster care.
Child's Best Interests
Most states consider a child's best interest in termination proceedings. In some states, statutes use general language mandating that the child's health and safety be paramount in all proceedings, while other states' legislation lists specific factors that must be considered, such as the child's age; the physical, mental, emotional and moral well-being; cultural and attachment issues; as well as the child's reasonable preferences.