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Termination of parental rights: 101

It takes a powerful case for a state to terminate a person’s parental rights. If the situation warrants it, there are two approaches: voluntary and involuntary termination. Making the case for involuntary termination is where the best interests of the child come into play.

How are the best interests of a child determined? 

In Pennsylvania, there are sixteen factors that determine the best interest of a child. All sixteen factors are detailed here, however, below is a brief outline.

Where will the child be most likely to receive:

  • Safety, love, and stability
  • Primary basic physical, emotional care
  • Care from an extended family network
  • A consistent education
  • A home free of drug or alcohol abuse

Grounds for involuntary termination

Contrasting the factors listed above, here are common reasons for the termination of parental rights:

  • Severe or chronic abuse or neglect
  • Sexual abuse
  • Abuse or neglect of other children in the household
  • Abandonment
  • 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
  • Involuntary termination of the rights of the parent to another child

Voluntary termination of parental rights

A person can choose to voluntarily terminate their parental rights at any point. Typically, this also terminates their obligation to pay any child support as well. In Pennsylvania, once parental rights are terminated, there is typically no reinstatement.

Adoption

If adoption by a stepparent is in the best interest of the child, it is possible either by obtaining consent from the other birth parent (which terminates their parental rights), or by going through with the adoption as usual, if termination of rights already occurred.

Although it’s not common to terminate parental rights, if a judge decides that it is in the best interests of a child, it is possible. Making an irreversible decision regarding your child requires significant time and energy. No one should have to experience that alone. Talk to friends, family, or an expert to determine your next steps toward a happier future.

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