Absentee Parents & The Termination of Parental Rights

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Sadly, many single parents or other family members are raising children without the help of one or both biological parents. Often a non-biological parent is filling the role of an absentee biological parent but cannot legally make decisions or choices because they aren’t the biological parent.

Despite the prolonged absence, complete lack of involvement, or zero financial help, those absentee parents still have rights to the child, and the only way to fix that is through court-ordered severance of parental rights.

Many people are scared or unaware of how to proceed with cutting off the legal rights of an absent parent. Sometimes the fear of “stirring the pot” or “fanning the flames” keeps them from taking action. Other times the worry is that the child support obligations or arrears will be wiped away if rights are severed.

· Absent parent: If a parent has been absent for 6 months or more, the law allows the other, more responsible parent, to petition to terminate parental rights.

· Not just parents can terminate: in fact, anyone with an interest in the well-being of a child can attempt to terminate one or both parents’ rights.

· Step-parent: If there is a step-parent who has been there for the child, acting as the parent in every way and wants to adopt, your case is even stronger. How the child views the step-parent is very important and the Court will take that into consideration.

· Grandparents: If a grandparent or another (non-step-parent individual) wants to adopt a child, both parent’s rights have to be terminated first.

· Child support: many competent parents are hesitant to terminate another parent’s rights because there are child support orders in place. However, termination of parental rights does not necessarily absolve an absent parent of financial responsibility. The Court can still order a terminated parent to pay child support. Giving up parental rights specifically to avoid child support does not sit well with the Court. So no one should be afraid to terminate another parent’s rights due to fear of financial loss.

Is the other parent of your child largely absent? Are you raising a child without the help of one or both biological parents? Are you or someone else filling the “parent” role for a child who would be able to adopt them? Severing the parental rights of one or both biological parents is a complicated process, one that should be done with the help of a knowledgeable and experienced attorney. Call us for a consultation today at (520)740-1802.