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.
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.
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:
Get Started on Reinstating Your Parental Rights by Talking to an Attorney
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 talking to a local family law attorney about your particular situation and learn more about the process to reinstate your parental rights.