Termination of Parental Rights

  •   |   Meghan Freed

In a Connecticut Termination of Parental Rights, the court severs the legal relationship between a minor child and one or both parents. If the court terminates the rights of only one parent, the remaining parent becomes the sole legal parent of the minor. This is the case unless and until a different parent adopts the child.

Read on to learn more about the Termination of Parental Rights.

Background on Parents’ Rights

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that “The right of a parent to raise his or her children has been recognized as a basic constitutional right.” As a result, the termination of parental rights process has significant safeguards to protect a parent’s constitutional rights.

Impact of Termination of Parental Rights

A person whose parental rights to a minor have been terminated has no legal rights or responsibilities concerning the minor. For example, post-termination order, the former parent will no longer have custody rights or child support responsibilities. An exception is the rights of inheritance between the parent and the minor.  Inheritance rights remain intact unless and until the child is adopted. A court’s order terminating parental rights does not change the child’s birth certificate.

Child Support and Termination of Parental Rights

If the court terminates parental rights, child support obligations also end.

Read: How Does CT Calculate Child Support?

Termination of Rights vs. Sole Custody

Terminating parental rights is not the same as a custody action that seeks to remove a parent’s custody. In contrast to a termination of parental rights, an award of sole custody in one parent’s favor is not supposed to cut the other parent entirely out of the child’s life. Just because one parent has sole physical custody doesn’t mean that the other parent doesn’t have parental rights, such as visitation, or parental responsibilities, such as child support obligations.

Read: What is Sole Custody?

Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights

The person petitioning for the termination of parental rights must prove to the court by clear and convincing evidence that the termination is in the child’s best interests.  They must also prove that one of the following grounds for termination exists:

  • The parent abandoned the minor.
  • The minor has been denied, by reason of acts of parental commission or omission, the care, guidance, or control necessary for the minor’s physical, educational, moral, or emotional well-being.
  • There is no ongoing parent-child relationship, and to allow additional time for establishing or reestablishing the parent-child relationship would be detrimental to the minor’s best interests.
  • In a prior proceeding, the Superior Court or the Probate Court found that the child was neglected, abused, or uncared for in a prior proceeding.
  • The parent’s rights were terminated with respect to another child, and a child of the parent under age seven has been found to be neglected, abused, or uncared for.
  • The parent has deliberately killed or conspired to kill another of his or her children or has deliberately assaulted another of his or her children resulting in serious bodily injury.
  • The parent committed a sexual assault resulting in the conception of the minor.
  • A court found the parent guilty of sexual assault resulting in the conception of the child, or
  • The parent consents to the termination

Termination of Parental Rights By Consent

One acceptable grounds for terminating a person’s parental rights is that they agree. In addition to that agreement, the court must find that the termination is in the child’s best interests. As a practical matter, generally speaking, uncontested terminations of parental rights are less lengthy and contentious litigations than contested terminations.

Termination of Parental Rights Without Consent

In an unconsented termination of parental rights, the petitioner has to prove that termination is in the child’s best interests. They must also prove with clear and convincing evidence that one of the above factors, besides the consent factor, applies.

In addition, the court will consider the following:

  • Services offered to the parent to facilitate a reunion with the minor;
  • The degree to which the parent has complied with any court orders;
  • The feelings and emotional ties of the minor towards the parent and others;
  • The age of the minor;
  • The efforts the parent has made to adjust their behavior or circumstances to facilitate the return of the minor in the reasonably foreseeable future;
  • Whether the parent didn’t see the minor as a result of others’ unreasonable actions or the parent’s economic circumstances.

Plus, if the minor is age 12 or older, the minor has to join the adoption petition themselves.  Otherwise, the court cannot grant a petition to terminate parental rights.

Termination of Parental Rights & Stepparent Adoption

Sometimes, completing a termination of parental rights is necessary before moving forward with a stepparent adoption. Generally, this occurs when there is either: (1) a known genetic donor or (2) a living biological parent uninvolved in the child’s life. As with all terminations of parental rights, it can be contested or uncontested.

Read: What is a Stepparent Adoption?

Motion to Open or Set Aside Termination of Parental Rights

It is possible for a court to grant a Motion to Open or Set Aside a judgment terminating parental rights or may grant a petition for a new trial provided that the court considers the best interest of the child.

That said, no such motion or petition may be granted if a final decree of adoption has been issued prior.

Read: What is a Motion to Open a Judgment?

Next Steps

Check out our Divorce Information and Facts for more information about Connecticut divorce and family law. If you have questions or want to learn more about how our team of divorce attorneys can help you with your divorce or Post Judgment issue, please contact us here or by phone at 860-530-4346.

Freed Marcroft LLC

Freed Marcroft LLC