North Carolina takes parental rights seriously, and for that reason will not terminate a parent’s rights lightly. However, there are certain situations where a court may step in and terminate parental rights. If you are a custodial parent and you need help terminating the rights of a non-custodial parent, we can help.
If the other parent has abandoned or abused your child, then there might be grounds to proceed. Please contact our law firm for more information.
Legal Grounds for Terminating Parental Rights
A court must find certain grounds exist in order to terminate a parent’s rights. These reasons are called grounds, and North Carolina General Statutes § 7B-1111 identifies the legitimate grounds for doing so:
- The child has been abandoned by the noncustodial parent
- The noncustodial parent neglected or abused the child
- The noncustodial parent hasn’t paid their child support for a year or more without any justification
- The child was born out of wedlock and the father did not take steps to legitimize the child
- The noncustodial parent cannot provide proper care
- Other reasons
A parent should meet with a North Carolina family law attorney to review whether there is sufficient evidence to seek termination. A court may not simply take a parent’s word for it that there has been abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Instead, it will require evidence such as eyewitness testimony, medical records, and/or police reports. A non-custodial parent cannot simply consent to terminate their parental rights. A court has to conduct a hearing and find the grounds that exist to terminate the non-custodial parent’s rights.
The Child’s Best Interests
Even if grounds exist for termination, a judge will not terminate parental rights unless the judge finds termination in the best interests of the child. This “best interest” standard is the touchstone for many legal issues involving children, and it requires that judges take a holistic view of the situation.
If a child has been abused, then termination is usually in the child’s best interest. This issue is often less clear, however, if the child has been abandoned for a relatively short amount of time, since a parent could reappear.
Results of a Termination
When parental rights are terminated, the noncustodial parent will no longer have a right to visitation or to have any say in how the child is raised. However, the parent will no longer be required to pay child support. Parents should think carefully before seeking termination.
Often, a custodial parents wants to terminate a noncustodial parent’s rights so that their child can be adopted by a stepparent. However, failure by the non-custodial parent to consent to an adoption is not one of the grounds for termination. There are of course other reasons as well. Discuss your reasons for wanting rights terminated with your attorney.
Bringing a Legal Action
Only certain people can request that a court terminate rights. These people include:
- The custodial parent
- A presumptive adoptive parent
- Agencies that provide social services
- A person who the child has lived with for 2 or more years
The noncustodial parent cannot request or agree that his or her own rights be terminated. However, they can consent to adoption of the child is wanting to be adopted.
To begin the process of terminating a non-custodial parent’s rights, you must file a petition in an appropriate court asking for termination of the noncustodial parent’s rights and serve the non-custodial parent with the petition. An attorney will be appointed to represent the non-custodial parent and a Guardian will ad litem will be appointed for the child. A judge will want to hear from the noncustodial parent, and will hold a trial in order to and hear evidence in order to determine whether grounds exist and whether termination is in the child’s best interest.
Contact Us Today
Perry, Bundy Plyler & Long, LLP is a full-service family law firm in North Carolina. We help many people seek termination of parental rights, and we can meet for a free consultation if you contact us today.