Under Alabama law, there are several situations in which a court may order the termination of parental rights for one or both parents. In some circumstances, a parent can relinquish parental rights. This is known as voluntary termination of parental rights. In other situations, typically involving abandonment, abuse, or neglect, the court may order involuntary termination of parental rights. Whether the process is voluntary or involuntary, the court will focus on the best interests of the child.
Whether you are interested in giving up parental rights, have the other parent’s rights terminated, or you are facing a petition to terminate parental rights, call an experienced and skilled child custody lawyer from Alabama Divorce & Family Lawyers, LLC at (205) 255-1155. You can also contact us online to schedule a free, private consultation.
When you lose your parental rights, you no longer have any right to have your child live with your or even to see your child. There is no legal right to visitation after termination of parental rights. The only way for you to maintain contact with your child is through permission of the legal parent(s) or guardian(s). For instance, voluntary termination is often used so a child can be adopted by new parents or a step-parent. A single mother signing over parental rights may do so for her child to be adopted by a stable, loving couple. She can only remain in her child’s life with the adoptive parent’s permission.
Any duties you had to physically or financially support your child end. Additionally, the remaining legal parent or the adoptive parents cannot pursue child support from you. For example, if you are mother giving up parental rights to the father of your child or vice versa, and the voluntary termination is approved by the court, then your child’s father cannot ask the court to require you to support the child in the future.
Parental rights are terminated, whether voluntary or involuntary, because it is the best thing to do for the child. Voluntary termination by one or both parents is typically for adoption. You may give up your parental rights for your child’s step-parent to adopt them. Or, you and your child’s other parent may sign over your rights for your child to be adopted by an individual or couple better able to care for them. There are also times when you or both parents voluntarily relinquish rights because you are not able to care for your child.
Involuntary termination of parental rights may occur because you have shown you cannot take care of your child, or will not, and it is best for the child’s stability and well-being to lawfully end the relationship. If you abuse or intentionally neglect your child, you may lose parental rights. This is highly likely if your abuse or neglect caused your child harm and you have shown that you cannot be rehabilitated. Also, if you abandon your child, whether you leave them in the care of the custodial parent or not, you may lose your rights.
Neither voluntary or involuntary termination is automatic. There must be grounds to terminate parental rights. Based on Ala. Code Section 12-15-319, a court may terminate a parent’s rights if the parent is unable or unwilling to discharge their responsibilities, and the conduct or condition of the parent that makes them unable to care for their child is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. The court requires evidence that a parent cannot or will not care for their child now or in the future.
Evidence supporting termination of parental rights includes but is not limited to:
Additionally, if there is evidence you or the other parent abandoned your child for at least four consecutive months prior to the filing date of the petition for termination of parental rights, then there is a presumption you or the other parent is unwilling or unable to act as a parent.
Alabama uses a two-pronged test when determining whether to terminate a parent’s rights. First, the court must see that there is clear and convincing evidence that grounds exist for terminating a parent’s rights, whether they consent to the termination or not. Next, the court reviews whether there are any alternatives. For instance, is it possible for the parent to go through counseling, education, and/or rehabilitation and become suitably able to care for and support their child? A parent may suffer from alcohol dependency, yet this is not enough to terminate their parental rights if there is hope for rehabilitation.
If your parental rights were terminated and your child was adopted, there are very few circumstances in which you may regain your parental rights. For you to reverse an adoption, there must be evidence a voluntary or involuntary termination of your rights was not valid.
An involuntary termination could be invalid in two ways: there were no grounds for termination or the court did not look at all of the viable alternatives. If you voluntarily gave consent for termination of your rights, you must be able to show your consent was obtained by fraud, duress, mistake, or undue influence on the part of another parent, a prospective adoptive parent, or an agency.
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