How Does a Termination of Parental Rights Affect the Custody Rights of the Other Parent

How does termination of parental rights affect custody of another parent? If one parent’s parental rights to a child are terminated, the other parent will usually get full custody of the child. The exception is if the other parent’s parental rights are also terminated, or the other parent engaged in behavior that would cause the state to place them on a dependency plan. This is generally not done in a divorce in Shelby County, or anywhere else in Alabama, but is a separate proceeding.  Termination of Parental Rights & Custody of Other Parent

If one parent is placed on a dependency plan, the other parent would usually get full custody of the child. The exception is if the other parent is also on a dependency plan. Both parents can have their parental rights terminated. Both parents can be placed on dependency plans.

A dependency plan will be tailored to the concerns of the parent. One parent may be required to complete anger management classes and parenting classes. The other parent may be required to complete an inpatient substance abuse recovery program. If a parent is charged with a criminal offense, this can limit their ability to complete the dependency plan on time. Setbacks to achieve goals can affect the timing of a parent regaining visitation time or custody to a child. 

A termination of parental rights (TPR) is a court order. It ends the legal parent-child relationship. The parent or guardian who gains physical and legal custody of the child may still allow the child to see a parent whose parental rights have been terminated. A TPR terminates rights like inheritance and visitation. It also ends obligations such as child support and liability for the child’s misconduct. A parent who gets full custody of a child but sees the other parent’s child support payments end may be eligible for more financial assistance from local, state, and federal government agencies. 

A parent can terminate their parental rights voluntarily or the court can order an involuntary TPR. If one parent does not consent to a TPR or their location is unknown, the other parent must file a petition to terminate the first parent’s parental rights. TPR is a very serious matter. A parent who wants full custody should not use a petition for TPR lightly. Reasons to file a TPR include:

  • the fact that the child is not safe in the care of the parent 
  • the child has been subjected to aggravated circumstances including but not limited to abandonment, substance abuse, sexual abuse, chronic abuse or torture
  • the parent against whom the petition is filed has committed certain crimes against the child or another child of the parent and/or 
  • The child has been in foster care for 12 cumulative months of the most recent 22 months. 

If a parent with a substance abuse issue is making substantial progress in recovery, the court may place them on a dependency plan. The court may choose not to terminate that parent’s parental rights. The court may limit or place certain conditions upon that parent’s visitation time with the child until the parent recovers. A good family or divorce attorney in Birmingham can help defend you during this process.

If there have been recent changes regarding custody, the court will look at how the parent who retains custody is caring for the child. The court will consider this parent’s:

  • financial situation
  • criminal record
  • living conditions
  • ability and willingness to ensure the child has academic success and
  • ability and willingness to look after the child’s medical needs. 

The court will appoint a guardian-ad-litem (GAL) (a licensed family law or divorce attorney in Anniston or wherever the proceeding occurs) to represent the child in dependency and TPR proceedings. The GAL must advocate for conditions that will be in the child’s best interest. A GAL may conduct discovery, subpoena witnesses and documents, and present evidence and testimony in a trial or other court proceeding to support their position. A GAL must be present at the hearing for a TPR and proceedings regarding dependency plans. Termination of parental rights can definitely affect custody of the other parent, but usually they will get full custody. If you are confused about the process, then contacting a family law attorney can help.

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