TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS
Terminating parental rights of a parent is a rare but important legal occurrence in Michigan. It is only done in extreme circumstances, either when a step-parent adoption is to take place, or if the child would be in harm if a parent were to continue to have parental rights to the child.
Terminating parental rights is different than a parent being awarded sole legal and/or sole physical custody of a child. When a parent’s parental rights are terminated they are no longer legally bound to the child at all, and this is not something that can be undone. If a parent has legal and/or physical custody taken away, first, they will still have an obligation to support that child, and second, upon showing the Court a change of circumstances or proper cause, custody can be changed. Terminating parental rights is the end of the game. One questions I get often is “can I terminate my rights to my child” or “how can I get my child’s other parents rights terminated.” The short answer is, No, unless an adoption is imminent. It is considered by the Court’s to be against public policy for a parent to have no “rights” to their child, unless it would cause great danger to the child. It cannot be used as a tool to not pay child support.
There are two ways to terminate a parents rights in Michigan. One is under the Adoption Code, and the other is under the Juvenile Code.
Under the Adoption Code, termination of parental rights are controlled by MCL 710.21, and the purpose of a terminating the parents’ rights is to make the child available to be adopted. This can be done by consent, or in the instance of step-parent adoption it can either be done by consent, or be contested. If it is contested, the parent whose rights are to be terminated cannot have had contact with the child for two years, and also have had the ability to support the child and failed to do so. If these two conditions are not met, the step-parent adoption cannot proceed unless by consent.
Under the Juvenile Code, MCL 712.A1, the Court may terminate a parents rights due to abuse or neglect of a child. This petition can be brought by several groups of people, but is most often done by the Department of Human Services and the prosecutor’s office. The case will be handled by the Juvenile Court. The Court will in some cases give the parent the opportunity to rectify the situation that caused the abuse or neglect, however, the parents are under some strict guidelines, court supervision and time lines. This is not something you want to handle alone!
If you are a parent who suspects the other parent is abusing or neglecting your child and wish to protect your child, please give me a call today so we can discuss what options you have and what the best court of action is. If you are a parent who is wrongly being taken to court over suspected abuse or neglect, we can help you as well. Don’t face this issue without an experienced attorney with you.