What are the reasons I could have the rights of my children’s mother/father terminated?
There are several statutory grounds for terminating a parent’s rights; in our practice, the most commonly employed grounds for termination are a) willful failure to visit the child for a period of six (6) months or more, and b) willful failure to pay support for a period of six (6) months or more.
The grounds themselves are fairly self-explanatory, but the requirement that such conduct be “willful” sometimes causes confusion.
A parent may not, by his or her actions, prevent the non-custodial parent from visiting or paying support so as to create grounds for termination (i.e., hiding the child, moving and leaving no means of further communication, etc.). An incarcerated parent is unlikely to have his or her rights terminated if he or she makes continued attempts to continue the relationship with the child. On the other hand, isolated token attempts to visit or support the child may be insufficient to overcome a termination cause of action.
Each case has its own unique set of circumstances, and a parent seeking to terminate another’s (or attempting to defend against a termination) would be wise to seek the assistance of a Charleston termination of parental rights attorney experienced in handling termination of parental rights cases.
Can he/she agree to a termination of parental rights?
A consent to termination of rights must be handled very carefully and in a very precise manner. The law requires certain precautions be taken to ensure that a parent is not being threatened or coerced into giving up his or her children, and the applicable guidelines must be followed “to a T.”
Our team of Charleston termination of parental rights attorneys has handled a great many of these types of cases, and we have the experience and knowledge needed to make certain that the consent to terminate is handled properly in your case.
Can he/she terminate his/her parental rights over my objection?
There is simply no mechanism in South Carolina law that allows for a parent to terminate his or her own rights to a child. Termination actions must be with the consent of both parents, or must be initiated by the custodial parent or by DSS (with some minor exceptions).
What is the effect of a termination of parental rights?
A termination of parental rights ends all obligation a parent has to a child. This includes, but is not limited to, the duty to support, the right to visit, and the right to inherit.
Be wary of having your parental rights terminated with a “side deal” that would allow for continued visits. That side deal will absolutely be unenforceable.
A termination does not affect a support arrearage that has been accumulated prior to the termination. That existing arrearage can only be waived with the consent of the custodial parent.
Can my new spouse adopt my children after the termination of parental rights?
Yes, and this is the most frequent scenario we encounter in our practice.
The Family Court will actually prefer to create a new parental relationship for the child, as opposed to having the child simply lose a parent. The adopting parent would thereafter have the same obligations to support that the biological parent would have had, and would also be on an equal footing in a future custody dispute over the minor child.
A “step-parent adoption” requires following a certain number of prescribed statutory procedures, all of which must be closely followed, and will almost certainly require the assistance of an experienced Charleston termination of parental rights attorney.