Frequently Asked Questions – Termination of Parental Rights

How does a termination of parental rights (TPR) work?

Termination of parental rights applies only when the parent with the physical custody files the lawsuit asking for it. By law, a parent cannot file it against them self to terminate their own rights. In the absence extreme circumstances against the child, it is usually only granted in cases where a stepparent adoption is intended. To the Court, that means a replacement of a biological parent with a stepparent who seeks to become the legal parent.   A TPR is not necessary if both biological parents and the stepparent are in agreement with the adoption.   A TPR is usually the option when the biological parent to be removed does not agree so it is the mechanism to involuntarily remove their rights.

But I never see the child because we live too far apart or I don’t get along with the other parent.

As a general rule it is against public policy to just let a parent terminate their parental rights. The Court’s concern is that by law the child is the most important party to this equation. What a parent is asking is for the court to sanction that they never existed in the eyes of the law and the child. The Court would ask what message does that send the child? A parent had a choice, the child did not. To now terminate parental rights would say that for you there are no consequences but the child will have a lifetime of knowing there was no parent. The Court views that absence as harmful to the child no matter how the adults may rationalize it. The Court recognizes it cannot make you spend time or have a relationship with the child but since the Court feels that a parent/child relationship is ultimately in the child’s best interest, they are not going to make it easy to walk away from parental responsibility.

But why should I have to pay child support for a child I never get to see?

Each week a large number of parent’s in child support Court want to terminate their rights so they can stop paying child support. That is not going to happen in Court as it gets back to one parent walking away from individual responsibility at the expense of the child. Too many children with a “dead beat” parent are forced to rely on public assistance at the taxpayer’s expense. Medicaid, food stamps, subsidized housing, all come from the taxpayers.   As public policy, why should the taxpayers be forced to deal with the consequences of a parent who just does not want to pay support because it affects their personal bottom-line? If not seeing the child is the problem then going to Court on the custody and visitation issues is the solution; not terminating parental rights and cutting off financial support the child needs.

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