Terminating Parental Rights
Our Woodstock and Alpharetta Family Lawyers Advise Clients on Their Parental Rights and Legal Options for Revoking Those Rights
The right of a parent to raise a child is one of the most fundamental rights we possess. But with these rights come responsibilities. While Georgia courts are very careful to protect parental rights, they also will not hesitate to protect a child when a parent fails to meet those responsibilities to the extent that they put the child’s health, safety, or life at risk. Our Woodstock and Alpharetta family lawyers are well aware of the fact that a request to terminate a person’s parental rights is one of the most sensitive matters handled by the state’s Juvenile Court judges. Georgia law sets forth very strict rules about how such a request must be made, who has the right to make it, and the kind of acts or circumstances that need to be proven before a parent loses his rights as to his or her child.
What Does It Mean to Terminate a Parent’s Rights in Georgia?
The termination of a parent’s rights involves far more than losing custody or visitation rights. Once a parent’s rights are taken away, he or she is essentially no longer the child’s parent in the eyes of the law. That means the now-former parent has no rights to see or have a relationship with the child, will not be able to inherit anything from the child (and vice versa), and the child may be adopted without any notice or consent required.
When Will a Georgia Court Terminate a Parent’s Rights?
When considering a properly-filed petition for termination of parental rights, a judge will go through a two-part analysis. The first question that the judge must answer is whether there is “clear and convincing evidence of parental misconduct or inability.”
As set forth in O.C.G.A. 15-11-94, such misconduct and inability include:
- “Wantonly and willfully” failing to pay child support for 12 months or longer;
- Abandoning the child or leaving the child under circumstances that the identity of the parent is unknown and cannot be ascertained despite diligent searching, and the parent has not come forward to claim the child within three months following the finding of the child; and
- Failing to provide parental care or control such that it results in the child being deprived, the deprivation is likely to continue, and it will cause or is likely to cause serious physical, mental, emotional, or moral harm to the child. “Deprived” means that the child is found to be without adequate nourishment, education and/or parental care.
A parent can also voluntarily agree to the termination of his or her rights by providing written consent to the court.
If a judge finds clear and convincing evidence of such parental misconduct or inability, the judge then considers whether termination of parental rights is in the best interest of the child after taking into account the physical, mental, emotional, and moral condition and needs of the child, including the need for a secure and stable home.
What Does it Mean to “Fail to Provide Parental Care or Control?”
Aside from non-payment of child support, the most-common reason for seeking termination of parental rights is one parent’s failure, “to provide parental care or control such that it results in the child being deprived.” While this is a high standard and Georgia’s Juvenile Court judges take all requests for involuntary termination of parental rights extremely seriously, there are a number of potential ways that one parent can prove the other has failed to meet his or her parental responsibilities and is unfit to do so in the future.
If you are interested in seeking a termination of parental rights, or if you need to fight to prevent your parental rights from being terminated during a divorce or other legal proceeding, it is important that you seek legal advice from an Alpharetta family attorney or Woodstock family lawyer. This is a highly-complicated and highly-sensitive legal matter, and it will have profound consequences for you and your child. At North Metro Litigators, we provide skilled, compassionate, and forceful legal representation for parents in Georgia, and we can help you ensure that your children’s best interests are secure.
Reasons for Seeking Termination of Parental Rights in Georgia
Being a bad parent does not necessarily mean that someone no longer deserves to have a relationship and legal connection with his or her child. There are many different schools of thought on parenting; and, even if a parent makes poor decisions or puts his or her career or personal interests first, this generally will not provide justification for terminating his or her parental rights.
However, there are various circumstances in which a mother or father can be deemed unfit to parent. For example, the most-common issues involved in these types of cases are:
Substance abuse can be harmful to the parent and the child. If your child’s other parent abuses alcohol, prescription medications, or illegal drugs, and if his or her substance abuse has negative physical, psychological or financial effects for your child, then you may have grounds to file a petition for termination of parental rights.
No child should be subjected to domestic violence, whether the violence is perpetrated against one of the child’s parents or against the child directly. Domestic violence can cause severe physical and psychological trauma, and any child who is a direct or indirect victim of domestic violence deserves to be protected.
In certain circumstances, a parent’s criminal conviction can justify a petition to terminate his or her parental rights. If your child’s other parent is facing prison time (or if you are facing prison time and you need to fight to protect your relationship with your child), we encourage you to contact our Woodstock family lawyer promptly for a free consultation.
Importantly, in circumstances in which termination of parental rights is not an option – or in which it is not the most-desirable option – there will often be alternatives available. For example, in cases involving domestic violence, it may be possible to obtain a temporary protective order (TPO) that prevents a parent from having contact with a child without terminating his or her legal rights.
Call a Woodstock Alpharetta Family Attorney at North Metro Litigators Today If You Have Questions Regarding the Termination of Your Parental Rights
If you are concerned about the well-being of a child or your parental rights are at risk, please call an Alpharetta family lawyer at North Metro Litigators today. We provide effective and compassionate family law representation at a reasonable cost. Call us today at 770-517-0045 or contact us to arrange for your free initial consultation. We have offices in Alpharetta and Woodstock.