Parents have certain legal rights to their children. These rights include visitation rights with their child and the right to make decisions, including legal, medical, and social. When parental rights are terminated, either voluntarily or by way of a court order, the parent loses the right to see the child and make decisions for them. This legal matter can be emotionally fraught for obvious reasons, but the child and their best interests are always at the center of this legal decision.

What are the Grounds for Parental Rights Being Terminated?

Parental rights being terminated is not usually the first choice. When parents choose to terminate parental rights voluntarily, it is typically because of an inability to care for the child due to financial instability, illness, or other reasons. In order for a court of law to make the decision to terminate parental rights, it is often for the same reasons, but the parent does not give up their rights without a fight. The most common occurrence of parental rights being terminated by the courts takes place with children already in foster care after a reunification between parent and child has failed. When a parent has their child reunified, and the same issues are still present, it gives the courts a good indicator that the child may be better off in the care of someone other than the parent.

Reasons a Judge Will Terminate Parental Rights

In the state of Indiana, parental rights may be terminated for the reasons above, but also in other scenarios. Here are a few of the most common reasons why a judge would order parental rights to be terminated:

  • Mental illness or disability interfering with the ability to care for the child
  • Conviction or incarceration of the parent
  • Alcohol and/or substance abuse
  • Severe, chronic neglect
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Inability or refusal to meet the child’s medical needs
  • Abandonment

It is also worth noting that if a judge court orders termination of parental rights for one child, they will order it for all children in the household.

What Options Do Parents Have?

If a parent chooses to terminate their own parental rights for whatever reason, the courts will allow it and assume responsibility for the child. Many parents who choose to give up parental rights make that choice due to a financial inability to care for the child. Terminating rights means the parent is no longer financially responsible for the child from that moment on, but if they owe back child support, they are still legally required to pay the child support. A parent faced with potential termination of parental rights who is not willing to voluntarily terminate rights will need to seek legal counsel from a family law lawyer, specifically a child custody lawyer. The lawyer will assist the client in creating a case to prove to the judge that the client is able to meet the standards of care for the child. They must also prove that separation from their parent is not in the best interests of the child.