Termination of Parental Rights

Blue border with “Termination of Parental Rights” in black lettering and the gold Freed Marcroft LLC divorce and family law attorneys logo in the lower right corner.In a Connecticut Termination of Parental Rights, the legal relationship between a minor child and one or both parents is completely severed by the court.  If the rights of only one parent are terminated, the remaining parent becomes the sole legal parent of the minor, unless and until the child is adopted by a second parent.

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 with respect to 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, which 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 parental rights are terminated, so are child support obligations.

Read:How Is Child Support Calculated in Connecticut?

Termination of Rights vs Sole Custody

A termination of parental rights is not the same as a custody action that seeks to take away a parent’s custody. In contrast to a termination of parental rights, an award of sole custody in the favor of one parent 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 for Parental Rights

The person petitioning for the termination of parental right must prove to the court by clear and convincing evidence that the (1) termination is in the child’s best interests, and that (2) one of the following grounds for termination exists:

  • The minor has been abandoned by the parent.
  • 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 further time for the establishment or reestablishment of the parent-child relationship would be detrimental to the best interests of the minor.
  • A child of the parent has been found by the Superior Court or the Probate Court to be 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.
  • The parent was adjudged 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 of the acceptable grounds for termination of a person’s parental rights is that they agree.  In addition to that agreement, the court also has to 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 are 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 best interests of the child.  He or she also has to prove with clear and convincing evidence that one of the above factors, besides the consent factor, applies.

In addition, the court will consider:

  • Services that have been offered to the parent to facilitate 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 the parent’s behavior or circumstances to facilitate the return of the minor in the reasonably foreseeable future;
  • The extent to which the parent may have been prevented from seeing the minor as a result of the unreasonable actions of others or the parent’s economic circumstances.

Plus, if the minor is age 12 or older, the court may not grant a petition for termination of parental rights unless the minor has joined in the petition.

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 (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

For more information about Connecticut divorce and family law, check out our Divorce Information and Facts.

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 either here or by phone at 860-530-4221.