The bond between a parent and their child is considered sacrosanct, so the courts are rarely in a hurry to sever that connection – but it does happen.
In fact, one or both parents’ rights may have to be terminated if the child is going to be adopted by a stepparent or their foster parents. If the parent or parents in question aren’t willing to voluntarily surrender their rights, their rights may be severed involuntarily.
This is not the same thing as a denial of custody
It’s important to realize that if a parent no longer has any legal or physical custody over a child that does not mean that their parental rights have been terminated. Custody can always be returned – but once someone’s parental rights have been ended, they cannot be restored.
Generally speaking, the court will agree to terminate someone’s parental rights when there are either statutory grounds to do so or it is in the child’s best interests. This can include situations where there is credible evidence:
- The child or their siblings were subjected to sexual abuse, severe physical abuse or extreme emotional abuse
- The parent is unable to provide for the child’s needs and is unlikely to be able to do so in the future
- The parent has abandoned the child to the care of another person
- The parent is incarcerated and will remain so for at least two years
- The parent suffers from severe, long-term addiction to drugs or alcohol
The rules around terminating someone’s parental rights are complicated. When a child’s safety, well-being and future are all on the line, it’s wisest to have legal guidance as early as possible.