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What to know about termination of parental rights before adoption

Adopting a child can be a wonderful, life-enriching experience for any prospective parent. Whether you want to adopt a baby from across the world or the teenage son or daughter of your partner, becoming a legal parent to a child is an event worth celebrating.

However, there are challenges along the road to adoption, including the process of terminating another person's parental rights. 

Voluntary termination of parental rights

In some cases, a person agrees to give up his or her parental rights. He or she may do this because there was never a relationship between parent and child, or because doing so is in the best interests of the child.

To relinquish parental rights, the party may file a petition with the courts requesting permission to give up their rights to a child. The party intending to adopt the child will file a report of intent to adopt and a consent to accept child custody.

Involuntary termination of parental rights

If a person does not agree to give up parental rights, another party must file a petition with the courts seeking termination based on certain grounds. These include:

  • Failure or refusal to perform parental duties for at least six months prior to the filing of the petition
  • Ongoing, repeated abuse, incapacity or neglect by the parent resulting in a lack of care and control for the child
  • An argument that a father is the presumptive -- not natural -- parent
  • Abandonment by the parent 
  • The parent's inability or refusal to remedy conditions that lead to a child's removal from the home
  • The parent's conviction of certain serious criminal offenses

Under these circumstances, the courts may decide to terminate a person's parental rights against his or her wishes.

Taking the legal process seriously

As the stakes in adoption and termination of parental rights actions are incredibly high, it is crucial that parties on all sides understand the law on this subject. Missteps and assumptions can create costly delays and affect the overall outcome.

If you are party to an adoption or termination action you should consult a Pennsylvania attorney regarding your rights and obligations.

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