Terminating parental rights is generally considered a last resort to protect children. However, there are several circumstances in which termination can occur.
These circumstances include:
- If the state decides the child is in an unsafe environment or is subject to abandonment or neglect in the home.
- If one parent demonstrates that the other parent’s rights should be terminated due to neglect or abuse.
- If a parent is convicted of a violent crime.
- If a biological parent voluntarily gives up their parental rights.
The Department of Children and Families (DCF) in Massachusetts controls permanency planning to ensure children are living in stable homes. The goal of the state is to keep families together whenever possible. If the risk of danger for the child is too high and the possibility of keeping the family together is too low, DCF will develop an alternate child custody arrangement.
Alternative arrangements could be:
- permanent placement with a relative; or
- temporary placement in foster care.
The court will review the child’s situation 1 year after initial removal. If the child has been placed in temporary care and the parents haven’t made a reasonable effort to improve the situation, the court could terminate parental rights. If the child was placed in the permanent care of another person, the court will ensure they are being cared for properly.
In some cases, a person may choose to voluntarily terminate their parental rights. In these cases, the court will still rule in favor of a child’s best interest, so the reasoning behind voluntary termination needs to be for the benefit of the child.
When considering voluntary termination, the court reviews the following:
- Communication: the court reviews if the non-custodial parent made reasonable efforts to have a relationship with the child.
- Child support: the court looks into whether the non-custodial parent is paying child support or has done so in the past.
- The child’s wishes: if the child is 13 or older, the court will consider what they would like.
- The child’s best interests: the court considers the overall well-being of the child (basic needs, safety, education, stability, etc.).
- Abandonment: the court reviews whether the non-custodial parent has abandoned the child in the past.
- Safety: the court reviews whether the non-custodial parent’s past behavior has put the child in danger.
Protecting Your Parental Rights
Whether you are requesting or resisting a termination petition, our parental rights attorney can aggressively represent you and your interests.