Understanding Parental Rights 

The parents of a child, naturally, exercise some control over the child. This control can also be termed as “parental rights” under the law. These are rights that exist to a person for being the parent of the child and they cannot be exercised by anyone else. They include the ability to make serious decisions concerning and on behalf of the child.

Such decisions include the school to attend, the religion to be brought up in, the sort of medical treatment or care to be administered to the child. It also includes having physical and legal custody of a child. Those types of decisions are usually far-reaching and can shape the life of the child. If you have questions in regards to terminating parental rights you should seek a family law attorney

The rights also include taking certain actions on the child’s behalf. The purpose of terminating parental rights is to ensure that the child is well taken care of and that their interests and wellbeing are being looked after. The rights usually exist with both parents. However, these rights can be taken from a parent if the court has found them to be lacking or to have done certain things.

What Does it Mean to Terminate Parental Rights?

Terminating parental rights refers to stopping or disallowing a parent from continuing to exercise their parental rights over the child. If a court finds that a parent is wanting in some aspect or has broken some laws, then they may choose to terminate their parental rights if they feel that it is in the best interest of the child. This is especially if the actions of the parents could harm or affect the child in an adverse way. At other times, a parent may ask the court to take away such rights from them.

Grounds for Terminating Parental Rights

There are so many reasons why a court would choose to terminate parental rights. Most times, there are involuntary and that is because the parent does not usually agree or want the rights to be taken from them. Some of these reasons include 

Neglect or Deprivation 

When a child suffers neglect or deprivation from a parent, then the court can use that as a point to terminate the parental rights. This is because it shows that the parent is not always there for the child and does not bother to provide or give the child what they need.


A parent who persistently abuses a child could have their parental rights terminated. These abuses include verbal and physical abuse, like flogging, taunting, and other forms of inhumane treatment that could affect the child physically, emotionally or even psychologically. 

Sexual Abuse 

If a parent has been found to engage in sexual abuse of their child, then the court can proceed to have their parental rights terminated. 

Substance Abuse by the Parent 

Addiction to alcohol, marijuana or any other illegal substance could cause a parent to lose their parental rights as the court could rule that they are not setting a good example for the child. 


A conviction for a felony or any other serious crime, especially one that involves the child or any other close family member, may be the reason why a parent could have their rights terminated. 


A case where a parent abandons a child for a long time, with no sufficient reason, and no plans to make up for the lost time, or even give them what they want can be enough reason for the court to terminate their parental rights. 

Unwillingness to Claim Paternity 

This is peculiar to fathers. A father could lose his parental rights if they had failed to claim paternity over the child for years, or if they had absconded at the time of birth without any means to be traced. 

Bad Influence 

A parent who constantly encourage their children to engage in unlawful acts, such as stealing, or using hard drugs, could have their rights terminated for not setting up a good standard for their child.

Repeated Bad Behaviour 

If a parent had done anything that bad necessitated a visit by child protective services on one or more occasion, and persists in such acts, without a hope of change, then the court may have no other choice than to terminate their parental rights. 

Lack of Support 

A parent who is found wanting of supporting their child could have their rights terminated. This happens mostly when the parent has the means to support yet refuses to do so. The support includes access to education, healthcare and other important things the child needs. 

If a parent so chooses, they can also give up their rights. This is very common when they want to give the child up for adoption or when the parent no longer has the means to provide for the child. 

Foster Care

The child of parents who just had their rights terminated would have to be placed under foster care if there are no other legal guardians that can take care of them. The court would have to first file a petition with the federal Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA). But this petition is not necessary in some cases where foster care is very urgent for the child. Some of these include:

  • Abandonment, that is, if the child has no other place to go to. 
  • If the parent had maimed the child or some other children.
  • If the parent had killed, or aided in the killing of, some other children.

A child in those circumstances would be in urgent need of foster care. 

Reinstatement of Lost Rights

Once lost or terminated, a parent may never gain back their parental rights. Some states do not even allow it. An exception exists and that is if the child has not permanently settled under foster care. Filing a petition to show that they are willing and able to take care of the child could gain them back their rights.

The termination of parental rights is something done in the best interests of a child. It means that not terminating it could be detrimental to the overall wellbeing of the child. A court looks at other factors including age, emotional and mental stability, and if the child wants the rights terminated or not, in certain cases.

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