Under What Circumstances Can My Parental Rights Be Terminated?
When the Connecticut court orders the termination of parental rights, the legal relationship between you and your child ceases to exist. As you can imagine, this is a serious event that has lifelong consequences.
In nearly every case, it’s not possible to reinstate parental rights once they’ve been terminated. This isn’t the same as changing child custody or the reunification process, which involves reuniting you and your children after they’ve been removed from the home temporarily.
Because the termination of parental rights is so serious and final, it’s essential that parents understand why this option might be pursued and the ways they can protect their and their children’s rights when a petition is filed.
What is the Termination of Parental Rights in Connecticut?
When parental rights are terminated, the parent-child relationship legally comes to an end. When this happens, the child is legally able to be placed for adoption. A parent can voluntarily relinquish their parental rights, provided the state agrees their rights and responsibilities should be terminated. This is never a good idea and something you should discuss with a qualified attorney.
Most parental rights are terminated involuntarily, meaning another party files a petition with the court and has to prove their case. In Connecticut, the only parties who can petition for the termination of parental rights are:
- Either parent
- The child’s guardian
- A childcare or child-placing or similar DCF-approved agency official
- The selectman of a town with a foundling child
- A relative of a child whose parent has deserted them
If the child is over the age of 12, they must also be named as a Petitioner.
Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights in Connecticut
For the court to grant a petition terminating parental rights, the Petitioner must be able to prove two things. First, they must demonstrate that the termination will be in the child’s best interests. Second, they must show that one of the following grounds for termination exists:
- The child has been abandoned by the parent.
- There is no ongoing parent-child relationship, and it would be detrimental to the best interests of the child to allow additional time for the establishment or reestablishment of such a bond.
- The minor has been refused by acts of parental omission or commission, the guidance, control, or care necessary for their physical, emotional, moral, or educational well-being.
- In a prior proceeding, the Probate or Superior Court has found that the child has been abused, neglected, or uncared for.
- Another child of the parent under the age of seven has been found to be abused, neglected, or uncared for and the parent’s rights were terminated with respect for that child.
- The parent was found to have committed sexual assault, which resulted in the conception of the minor.
- The parent deliberately killed or conspired to kill another of their children or was found to have intentionally assaulted another of their children, resulting in serious bodily injury.
- The parent has failed to rehabilitate themselves after having been found guilty of neglect or failure to care for the child or who failed to take specific steps to facilitate the return of a child who has been in DCF custody for at least 15 months.
Contesting a Petition for Parental Termination in Connecticut
If someone tries to terminate your parental rights, you can and should contest their efforts. You have the right to mount a defense at the 30-day hearing. Most judges want to keep families united whenever possible. The court will take the following items into consideration when making its determination.
- The child’s age.
- The nature, extent, and timeliness of services offered to the parent(s) by the agency to facilitate reunification efforts.
- Whether DCF made reasonable efforts at reunification pursuant to child welfare and federal adoption law.
- Any terms relative to existing court orders involving an agency and the parent(s) and the extent to which the parties have satisfied their requirements under the order.
- The emotional ties and feelings the child has to their parent(s) or any other person who has had custody, care, and control of the child.
- The extent to which the parent has been barred from maintaining a meaningful relationship with their child. And…
- The parents attempt to maintain contact with the child and adjust to the current situation.
These are complex legal proceedings that should not be entered into without the assistance and guidance of a seasoned attorney.
Speak With An Experienced Attorney About Defending Your Parental Rights
If your parental rights are in jeopardy, there is no time to waste. After a petition is filed, there are just days to submit an answer and prepare for the mandatory hearing. While the Petitioner must prove their case, your complacency can serve as part of their body of evidence.
At The Christie Law Firm, our experienced DCF attorney is dedicated to keeping families together and protecting the rights of parents and their children. Contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation so that we can go over your options.