A legal bond exists between a parent and a child. This means that a parent has the rights and responsibilities related to the care-taking of the child. Parental rights include access to and custody of a child. These rights can be terminated either voluntarily by the parent, or involuntarily through certain actions of the state.
When a parent exhibits certain qualities that can actively endanger a child, some of these behaviors may qualify as "unfitness" to be a parent for that child. When this happens the state of New Jersey may file a motion to terminate a parent's rights to a child. Parents may also want to surrender their rights to a child. This is the first step in the child's journey through adoption procedures.
Involuntary Termination Of Parental Rights
Involuntary termination of parental rights occurs when the court deems a parent "unfit." While a trial will be held for the involuntary termination of parental rights, these matters are not criminal. However, if there ARE criminal charges such as neglect or endangerment, those proceedings will be at the criminal level and the termination of parental rights trial will be held separately. It is important to remember, however, that even if parental rights are lost, any standing obligations such as child support may still be due. Child support cases can be brought against a person by either the other parent or even the state, should they become the primary caretaker after a parent's rights are terminated. Parents can also make termination cases against one another, though more likely than not, both parents will be scrutinized, so this may not be advantageous unless one parent is directly exhibiting signs of unfitness.
Involuntary termination will be judged on the best interest of the child, a parent's failure to correct problems, abandonment, certain criminal convictions, and other factors. A majority of these cases will be decided upon by a trial rather than immediate action. As with most cases pertaining to children, the standard used to make a determination will be whatever is in the best interest of the child. Courts will weigh certain matters more heavily when the child's physical safety is at risk.
Voluntary Termination Of Parental Rights
Voluntary termination of parental rights typically occurs in just one scenario: a parent giving up a child for adoption. It is important to remember that termination of parental rights, whether it is voluntary or non-voluntary, will be permanent. Parental rights cannot be restored, so when contemplating surrendering a child for adoption careful consideration is absolutely necessary. On top of this, the process can be slightly complex, as there is counseling involved and certain processes to follow. Also, if a parent voluntarily surrenders a child, they are able to designate an individual to take care of them and act as guardian, should they have one in mind.
If you or a loved has questions or is facing termination of parental rights in New Jersey, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.