What Does It Take To Terminate Parental Rights?

Alabama has a two-step process that any court must conduct before terminatirg any person’s parental rights. The case of P.H. v. Madison County DHR, Case No. 2040483, 2040490 (Ala. Civ. App. February 17, 2006) is a good illustration of how the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals thinks the process should work, because it examined the cases of both parents. It found that termination of parental rights was appropriate for one parent and not for the other.

As blog readers already know, Alabama has a two-pronged test for terminating parental rights. The court must first determine that valid grounds exist for terminating parental rights, including (but apparently not limited to) those set forth in Ala. Code §26-18-7. If the answer is yes, the court must then inquire whether all viable alternatives to termination have been considered.

Here’s the relevant text of §26-18-7:

§ 26-18-7. Termination of parental rights

(a) If the court finds from clear and convincing evidence, competent, material and relevant in nature, that the parents of a child are unable or unwilling to discharge their responsibilities to and for the child, or that the conduct or condition of the parents is such as to render them unable to properly care for the child and that such conduct or condition is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future, it may terminate the parental rights of the parents. In determining whether or not the parents are unable or unwilling to discharge their responsibilities to and for the child, the court shall consider, and in cases of voluntary relinquishment of parental rights may consider, but not be limited to, the following:

(1) That the parents have abandoned the child, provided that in such cases, proof shall not be required of reasonable efforts to prevent removal or reunite the child with the parents.

(2) Emotional illness, mental illness or mental deficiency of the parent, or excessive use of alcohol or controlled substances, of such duration or nature as to render the parent unable to care for needs of the child.

(3) That the parent has tortured, abused, cruelly beaten or otherwise maltreated the child, or attempted to torture, abuse, cruelly beat, or otherwise maltreat the child, or the child is in clear and present danger of being thus tortured, abused, cruelly beaten, or otherwise maltreated as evidenced by such treatment of a sibling.

(4) Conviction of and imprisonment for a felony.

(5) Unexplained serious physical injury to the child under such circumstances as would indicate that such injuries resulted from the intentional conduct or willful neglect of the parent.

(6) That reasonable efforts by the Department of Human Resources or licensed public or private child care agencies leading toward the rehabilitation of the parents have failed.

(7) That the parent has been convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction of any of the following:

a. Murder or voluntary manslaughter of another child of that parent.

b. Aiding, abetting, attempting, conspiring, or soliciting to commit murder or voluntary manslaughter of another child of that parent.

c. A felony assault or abuse which results in serious bodily injury to the surviving child or another child of that parent. The term “serious bodily injury” means bodily injury which involves substantial risk of death, extreme physical pain, protracted and obvious disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty.

(8) That parental rights to a sibling of the child have been involuntarily terminated.

(b) Where a child is not in the physical custody of its parent or parents appointed by the court, the court, in addition to the foregoing, shall also consider, but is not limited to the following:

(1) Failure by the parents to provide for the material needs of the child or to pay a reasonable portion of its support, where the parent is able to do so.

(2) Failure by the parents to maintain regular visits with the child in accordance with a plan devised by the department, or any public or licensed private child care agency, and agreed to by the parent.

(3) Failure by the parents to maintain consistent contact or communication with the child.

(4) Lack of effort by the parent to adjust his circumstances to meet the needs of the child in accordance with agreements reached, including agreements reached with local departments of human resources or licensed child-placing agencies, in an administrative review or a judicial review.

(c) In any case where the parents have abandoned a child and such abandonment continues for a period of six months next preceding the filing of the petition, such facts shall constitute a rebuttable presumption that the parents are unable or unwilling to act as parents. Nothing in this subsection is intended to prevent the filing of a petition in an abandonment case prior to the end of the four-month period.

The mother in P.H. was of below normal intelligence with an eighth grade education and little or no family resources on which she could call for help. The appeals court described at length, however, the many changes the mother had made in her work schedule and lifestyle so she could be a more effective parent, as well as the counseling she had used.

We note that a court should terminate parental rights in only the most egregious circumstances because those rights, once terminated, cannot be reinstated. V.M. v. State Dep’t of Human Res., 710 So. 2d 915, 921 (Ala. Civ. App. 1998); and S.M.W. v. J.M.C., 679 So. 2d 256, 258 (Ala. Civ. App. 1996).

As to the father, however, the appeals court found that the juvenile court’s judgment terminating his parental rights was supported by clear and convincing evidence and was no plainly and palpably wrong. Specifically, the appeals court dispensed with the father’s argument (a) that there was not clear and convincing evidence that the child was dependent (the father had been convicted of domestic violence against the child’s half brothers); (b) that the juvenile court failed to consider alternatives to termination, including placing the child with the paternal grandparents (juvenile court had already made a finding of fact that living with the paternal grandparents posed a real ande present danger to the child; and (c) that the juvenile court’s judgment was not supported by clear and convincing evidence of any of the factors listed in §26-18-7 (the list by its terms is not exclusive, and the juvenile court had sufficient evidence from which it could have concluded that the statutory standard was satisfied).

We note that the juvenile court’s judgment terminating the father’s parental rights specifically found that the father was unfit; that he was unwilling to change his habits; that he was non-rehabilitated; and that the “safety and welfare of any child would be threatened in his care.”

153 comments to What Does It Take To Terminate Parental Rights?

  • Shannon

    I am petitioning the court to terminate the paternal rights of my daughter’s father. If he signs voluntarily (which I think he will) will there be a hearing? He lives in FL and I now live in Lauderdale County.

  • DONNA

    WHY IN SOME COUNTIES IN ALABAMA A PERSON THAT HAS CUSTODY OF CHILDREN FILE TO TERMINATE PARENTS PARENTAL RIGHTS AND OTHER COUNTIES YOU HAVE TO PAY A LAWYER TO FILE THE PAPER WORK?

  • Rhonda

    My husband has custody of his daughter and has since his divorce from child mother in 1996. The daughter has never lived with mother. She has visitation rights, but has not seen or contacted daughter in over 4 years. She has to pay child support ordered by the court, but is continuously late and behind with it. The support is not enough to feed the daughter let alone put up with the fact that she is not fit to be in her lift to start with. She has recently agreed to relinquish her parental rights, and has mailed my husband a “PETITION FOR TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS” for him to sign and then she will file it in the county in which she lives.
    On the petition my husband is listed as the petitioner. Is that right and does is he obligated to pay for any of the court expenses.
    Thanks.
    Rhonda

  • First, as you’ve no doubt read in my responses to others in your situation, this is so not your issue. You need to let Mom and Dad work it out. Just smile sweetly and let Dad make the decisions about whether to sign this, etc.

    If he were asking for my thoughts (and I am aware that he is not), I would tell him that if this is important enough to terminate the parental rights of the child’s biologicial mother, it’s important enough to do it right. He should ABSOLUTELY NOT sign a petition prepared by a mother who doesn’t care enough about a child to see the child or support her on a consistent basis. He needs to hire a lawyer exerienced in adoptions and guardianships.

    Finally, I’m not aware of any probate judge who would bastardize a child. That is, in order for the judge to terminate Mom’s parental rights, the judge will want to know that new Mom (I presume you) is standing in the wings ready to adopt the child. And are you sure you want to take on that role? What happens if you adopt the child and then you and Dad divorce? You’ll still be Mom, only now to a child who probably will be living with Dad, so you will be paying child support and negotiating weekends.

    Just make sure you really want to play this role FOR LIFE before you allow this termination and adoption to take place. This poor girl has had enough rejection in her life; she doesn’t need a problematic relationship with Mom #2.

  • Andrea

    My ex-husband smokes pot and is a heavy drinker. We have a 2-yr old together. He passed the required supervised visitation and drug testing for the 12 weeks after our divorce (a yr ago). He has been charged with domestic violence recently on his girlfriend by giving her 2 black eyes and jamming a gun down her throat. I have spoken with her and found out that she has spent the night with him several times since we have been apart and essentially has been taking care of my child while he is with his daddy. She also told me that he has smoked pot and drank during the times he has had my son. The daddy always brings him home early. All of these things are specifically stated in the divorce decree that he could lose his visitation rights. Problem is…he is sneaky and she is having problems getting the courthouse to cooperate with her because my ex-husband’s brother is a game warden and ex-cop for the city. They all know The Smiths (of course, different last name). Do you think we might have a chance if we moved our case to a different county? If not, how much higher on the totem pole do I need to go to get this investigated? This girl is afraid for her LIFE and people at the courthouse have told her to move on. I DO NOT want my son in his care!!! Please give me some advice. Thank you so much!!!

  • I’m not sure it matters. Before you spend any time trying to study whether you SHOULD move it, find out whether you CAN move it. My guess is that, barring something unusual, you cannot.

  • Jeff

    Where can I find information on parental rights with respect to DHR in Madison county. Their approach seems to be “guilty until proven innocent”, and that gives way too much power to those who would make baseless accusations out of spite. Specifically, DHR claims the right to an interview with my stepson without any family member present. Also, can they order a drug test without parental consent? Since we have seen no indication of a problem in this area, and DHR has only the word of an anonymous informant, this seems an unwarranted intrusion. I would much prefer to have DHR simply inform me of their suspicions, and let me handle this within the family. Any information you could provide on these topics would be greatly appreciated.

  • Nea;

    I am going through a situation where I had to take a step back from my child because of the mother’s actions and I am worried about her filing to have my parental rights taken away because I am not calling or visiting but I am sending child support. Is there a period of time?

  • hello how u doing? im a resident of Georgia and i have a question about my siblings. Do my siblings have the right or any say so in my child life and up bring ? I would love to know because my childs mother is going to my sister asking her to keep the child.

  • I think you know the answer, but I’ll state the obvious. In the absence of abuse, your sister doesn’t have any right to tell you what you should do with your child, but Mom can consult anyone she wishes, including your sister. So if you have a beef with the decisions Mom is making based on what your sister is telling her, take it with Mom.

  • Sueann

    I live in Montgomery CO. and i wish to terminate the rights of my children’s father. I have been married
    for 5 years and my husband would like to adopt my son and daughter. Their biological father has never
    held a job, paid child support, visited regularly (maybe 3 times a year) and he is in and out of jail consistently. He is not a person that I want around my children.

    Can someone please tell me where to start? I’m not even sure if the reasons I stated are grounds enough to
    terminate his rights.

  • I would start by reading the statute set out above, and pay particular attention to Subsections (b) and (c). Together, they lay out the grounds for you to create a rebuttable presumption that Dad unable or unwilling to act as parent for his children.

  • DESPERATEMOTHER

    Dear Mr. Borden,

    Several parents have posted on your website about how DHR gets by with their unjust removal of children before a full investigation, their failure to remove children from homes where there are police reports of abuse, children have stated to State Affiliates with DHR that they have been abused, their needs are not being met. Some children are being exposed to violence in the homes they are placed in where as when they were with their parents, this did not occur and can be substantiated beyond a shadow of a doubt. Consequently, ISP meetings are a huge waste of time…Months down the road, DHR never ONCE addressed the reasons for the meeting or most importantly, since my children have stated such pertinent information to the counselors as to what type of environments they are living in, DHR refuses to address this as in removing them from the homes.

    Also, why is it that DHR gets away with unjust removal of children without finding out both sides of the stories involved? DHR refuses to address issues that are required of me even with my attorney contacting them do to so. Please please help the innocent parents such as myself who have the misfortune of living in “DHR’S WORLD OF HELL” as in the emotional trauma they so unjustly and cold-heartedly put us through. There has to be someone to investigate this communistic dictatorship…

    Also, do you know of a contact person for DHR within Alabama who can investigate the lack of response and failure of social workers to handle the cases within a timely manner and for them to answer for why they leave innocent children to reside with people who are abusing them who are only custodians?

    Please respond on your original website. “WE”, the innocent victims of DHR and our children desperately need your advise and help.

    Thank you.

  • even more desperate

    my ex-husband is currently incarcerated for a violation of probation charge while on probation for domestic violence. my interpretation of the florida statutes state he is a habitual offender. my son is 7 years old and he has 2 more years on his prison sentence. what can be done to terminate his parental rights in Florida. I am desperate and in dire need of help. i need to exhaust all avenues to get this termination done.

    the instances of domestic violence are documented with police reports, and a received a threat through my son in 2004 from his father…. that threat was also heard from my son to law enforcement.

  • I can’t speak for FL, but I know that in my state what you describe would depend on showing that Dad has had no contact (telephone, mail, or otherwise) and no support for 6-18 months. And even then, you would need to have another Dad waiting in the wings ready to adopt the child. No judge I know would be interested in bastardizing a child.

  • Rick

    My fiances ex husband has not been in her (our) childs life since she was 3 months old. He has tried a couple of times to contact her and even though he has no visitation rights we attempted to meet him for lunch. He stayed all of 5 minutes and left because he had something to do. He is currently over $24,000 behind on child support. He has never given her a dime other than meeting her once around fathers day and bought the child a pair of shoes. They divorced due to his abuse of my fiance and had a protective order against him for 2 years. We have heard he currently has a warrant out for him in another state and has been to jail locally as well.

    We are wondering if the above give us a basis for terminating his parental rights so I may adopt her. I am her “Daddy” and the only man she has had as a father figure for the last 4 years. We want her to contiue to have the stable life she has now without the abuse and drug use of her biological father. Do we have a chance? Where do we start?

  • The standard is no contact, no support for at least six months. And that’s NONE. If Dad has been absent in this way, you may be able to terminate his parental rights on the basis of abandonment.

  • Carol

    I have had legal custody of my granddaughter for 20 months with the parents granted visitation and ordered to pay child support. My son-in-law’s whereabouts are unknown, but he has not contacted the child or paid CS since before I got custody. My daughter has a court date set in 3 weeks for contempt for nonpayment of CS and has agreed to voluntary terminate her rights at that court appearance. In 14 months, she saw the child once 7 months ago, never paid CS, used to make phone calls but none in 4 months and wants me to adopt (which I want to do). Would I need my lawyer to do a public notice of intent to terminate the father’s rights or would the judge be able to make a ruling without public notice? I’m asking because I don’t know if the judge would terminate my daughter’s rights (thereby making me unrelated to my granddaughter) before my son-in-law’s rights are terminated. Thank you.

  • This is not my area. My guess would be, however, that no judge would terminate the rights of a biological father without notice and the opportunity for a hearing.

    In addition, if I were the judge, I wouldn’t have any interest in bastardizing a child without appointing a Guardian ad Litem for the child, and you can be virtually certain the GAL would insist on notice to the father before any decision is made about terminating his rights.

    Let me stress again, however, that this is not my area. If this is important enough to cut off your daughter’s and your son-in-law’s parental rights, I believe it’s important enough to spend some money talking to a lawyer who focuses on adoption and guardianship.

  • Sabrina

    Can a father relinquish his parental rights without the consent of the mother? I am the mother and my ex husband has said that he is going to sign his rights away, he also thinks that if he does this he no longer has to pay child support. Is this correct? We have only been divorced about 5 months and he has only missed 1 scheduled visistation, the child support comes directly from his check, so he has not gotten behind on that at all.

  • Tee-hee! Yeah, right. Honestly, if Dads could do that, we surely wouldn’t see so many owing child support. If Dad were willing, and if you had another man waiting in the wings ready to adopt, the judge probably would approve it. Without that, I don’t know of any judge who would intentionally bastardize a child.

  • heather vanmoer

    I have a question well actually a few. my son’s birth father has not been in his life for four and a half yrs seen him only once. we live in houston county al and i keep getting the run around on all this. his birth father wants to terminate his rights so that we can move to minnesota and start a new chapter. my husband wants to adopt my son but since we just purchased a house we dont have themoney for the adoption currently. we have to move in jan is there something i can do to have the terminated as he wishes that doesnt involve attorneys. or if i have to have one then how do i go about just the termination for now then the adoption when we move. my son doesnt even belive that someone else could be his father he thinks his birth father is his uncle and yeah its not that away. any help would be gratefully appreciated

  • No, I’m not aware of any way to do this without really doing it. If your husband really wants to adopt your son, then it should be worth coming up with the money to adopt him. Be patient; when it’s time, it will happen.

  • Heather

    I had my son taken away in GA 4yrs ago. He lives with his Dad. I only get to see my son 1st and 3rd weekends and wensday after school. I live 2 miles from them and my ex won’t let me see him except at those times. My son just turned 11 and of course very impressionable to his Dad. Dad constantly tells son I am not a good mom and he won’t have to see me after he turns 14. My ex just served me with court papers saying he wants my son all the time. I live in a 2 story home and ex lives in a double wide trailer. The reasoning the Judge gave at the time was at the time I lived with my parents and the child should not be taken out of the home he grew up in. I had to leave it was my ex’s family farm. We live in a small town where if you know or can pay the judge you can win. I feel like I don’t have a chance. I’m a great mom and I love my son very much. I’ve never used drugs I don’t drink or smoke. I’m scared of going back to court. Do I have a chance of losing my son more?

  • If your judge is typical, and if the worst thing Dad can say about you is that he doesn’t think you’re a good mom, the judge is unlikely to end your visitation. If I were the judge, and if I thought being with you were dangerous for the child, I might insist on some kind of supervision, but EVEN THEN, I wouldn’t want to end your visitation rights. Instead, I would want to adjust them to respond to the specific challenge.

  • andrea posey

    the court put my daughter in foster care bc i was abou to go to a homeless shelter. well this happened yesterday, i am living with family now, dhr is being unfair there are no allegations of abuse nor neglet, all there was were that i did not at the time have a stable place, then why wont they at least let me talk to her or see her ? dhr madde the comment that the foster ppl might want to adopt her. they dont have that right only after 1 day… the dhr of tuscaloosa county mistreated me and the whole situation bc i dont know much, what should i do and how long do they have before they can terminate my rights? can they terminate them if i do have a home and i am trying?

  • Anonymous

    My daughter has been separated from her husband for 3 1/2 years and they have a child that will be 4 soon. Neither of them care if they are divorced are not. I have been raising this child for most all of her life except for about 5 months (and in that time 95 percent of the time.) But permantely for the rest. The husband left and has not been heard of since. We have heard that he lives in a certain area. My daughter does not see her child much. She will go months without any contact. I try calling her and never can get her. Recently I found her and tried to get her to come home and she finally agreed to get her life straighten out. I got her to take a drug test which she failed. She stayed her 4 days and then was gone again. I could not reach her by phone and did not know where to find her. I started making notes 3 years ago when my daugther just kept lying and moving around. In 3 years she has seen her daughter less than one weeks time. My question is how do I go about getting custody? What do I need to do?

  • Talk to your lawyer about going to juvenile court to have your granddaughter declared a dependent. That will pave the way for you to ask for custody of her.

  • Shawnee

    Ok I have been divorced for 3 years, I have sole primary custody of my two girls. I have not heard from my ex husband since I filed for divorce. He did not show up for the divorce court, the custody hearing or the child support hearing. He was ordered to pay but of course I have not seen a dollar. His family doesnt know where he is. I speak with his mother once a month and she tells me she has no clue of his whereabouts. I am remarried and my husband wants to adopt my girls. My question is what steps do i need to take being that my exhusbands address is unknown. How hard and long is this process? And can I just file the paper work or do I need to hire a lawyer?

  • Do not, repeat, do not, attempt a DIY adoption. The requirements are too technical, and the consequences of a mistake too great (having bio-Dad come in years from now and attempt to have the adoption set aside) to play games with it. Find the most experienced adoption lawyer you can find, and this shouldn’t be difficult. First you have to have bio-Dad’s parental rights terminated on the grounds of abandonment, and then new Dad steps in and says “make me Daddy.” Given that bio-Dad is completely gone from the children’s lives, it shouldn’t be difficult.

  • anonymous

    Hello, I need some help. My husband and I separated last year–we both thought a divorce was best for us. We have since decided that 20 years of marriage are too imortant to give up on and have given each other another chance. Things are really going great for us.

    However, while we were separated, he decided to get a girl friend–she gave birth to, she claims, their daughter several months ago. During her pregnancy, she was arrested (xx/07 , and convicted, on drug charges and spent 3 mos. in jail.–child birth was shortly after release.

    She has 2 other children and has lost custody of both–one to the biological father and one to the her mother. Several times during the pregnancy (before the arrest) she called me and asked me to adopt the child–even if my husband and I didn’t work out. She also called me once or twice and begged me to pay for an abortion.

    After researching, I have found out the she has had several arrests for drugs (and I’ve heard reports of prostitution, but have not confirmed that) and has spent one complete year (xx/05 to xx06) in jail–a sentence not related to the 3 mos in 07. As you can see, after she was released from the one year sentence, she couldn’t even go a year without being getting into more trouble. Unfortunately, my husband picked her. He was oblivious to what kind of person she was and when he found out, he was over it.

    Since she has given birth, we stumbled upon the fact that she was in the legal process of signing the baby over to a relative–of her own free will and consent. Grounds stated were drugs and prostitution. Also, stated was the fact that the mother had left the baby w/said relative for days and had made several drug runs (to purchase). Several weeks prior, the relative filed for, and received, temporary custody based on those facts. The mother signed the paperwork stating that the allegations were true.

    My husband found out the date of the scheduled hearing to determine the permanent custody (mom or other relative)of the child and was able to be in the court room. Fortunately, we were able to stop that proceeding–the relative said she didn’t know a thing about my husband and withdrew her petition. However, when he went to court to stop that hearing and request DNA testing, due to the fact that he had no legal rights, the child was placed back in the mother’s care. I don’t understand that at all. The only thing we accomplished that day was a court order for DNA.

    We are now in the middle of a paternity suit and custody battle with the mother. My husband and I made a terrible decision and now an innocent life is caught in the crossfire. The mother now holds this child as leverage over my husband. We have no legal rights, as the DNA has not yet returned any results. She (the mother) has told me several times that my husband could see the baby if I would divorce him. We love each other and have no intentions of divorcing. Unfortunately, it took a separation to realize we had something worth fighting for. Based on the facts given to you about the mother, what is the likelihood that, I, as the stepmother, can have her maternal rights terminated and adopt this little girl?

    Please keep in mind, other than the prostitution accusations, I have been able to verify every arrest and allegation with legal documented records (Vinelink and the local sheriff’s dept.) By her distant family members, along with research done by our attorney, we have also confirmed the custody situation with the other 2 children and that information is correct. She doesn’t have custody of either of them.

    PLEASE HELP, AS I WORRY ABOUT THIS LITTLE GIRL DAILY!! WE HAVE NOT SEEN HER AT ALL AND SHE IS SEVERAL MONTHS OLD NOW.

  • Courtney

    Hi. I have a seemingly easy answered question. I am a single mother of a 3 month old little girl. The father was “going through a divorce” when I became pregnant. He is back with his wife and has supported the child in no way. He has not seen her and has informed me he wants no involvement with the child. Due to the fact he was married when she was born, I wasn’t allowed to name him on the birth certificate. So her birth certificate doesn’t list a father. I am in the process of starting petition to order paternity test/child support, etc. But would like to know if I wanted to just end all of this – would I even have to terminate his rights if he’s not even on her birth certificate? Thank yo for any advice.

  • Yes, you would still need to ask the court to terminate Dad’s parental rights. The risk is that, if you don’t, Dad can always come in later and file to establish paternity. I know that seems unthinkable now, but trust me, it happens.

    And just so you know, no judge I know of would ever terminate Dad’s parental rights unless there’s another father in the wings ready to adopt the child. No judge wants to bastardize a child.

  • GraphicArtsMom

    Hello Mr. Borden!
    This is my first time seeing your site. I’m glad I came across it. I have a need for your help. I was divorced in 2004 based on grounds of domestic violence numerous times at the hands of my ex-husband. I filed for divorce in April 2001. He found out while incarcerated in the brig and later was released by the brig, and then he found out where I was staying and proceeded to make his way in and rape me. After having filed the divorce, I found out a few weeks later I was pregnant by him. I told my family about the rape, but I was too afraid of him to ever bring legal charges against him for it. He had already threatened my life and beaten me many times. My divorce had to be refiled in another state due to the other state not filing it correctly. My divorce finally went through in 2004 when our child was 2 yrs. old. I was granted full legal custody. He was granted supervised visitation with exceptions. He was supposed to complete several different courses for anger management, drug abuse, parenting classes, along with psychiatric counseling and staying on his meds (for schizophrenia and bipolar), plus he was to retain adequate housing, a phone, and keep a job, along with paying child support and helping to provide for her. He was given 3 chances by the judge to do this, for a total of 90 days. He had a good paying job at the time, so money was not the reason for his failure. He just didn’t want our child in his life. He told me that too. His own parent told me that his visitation needed to be stopped before he hurt our child. Needless to say, his visitation was completely revoked by the courts automatically at the 90 day mark. Our child is now 6 yrs. old. I am remarried to a wonderful man who she calls Daddy. He’s been the only father she’s ever had and has been there for her for the past 2 yrs. now. My ex-husband has not paid any child support in over 2 yrs. I just found out he owes several thousand to me in child support. My husband wants to adopt “our” daughter. She wants him to adopt her too, and so do I. He’s such a wonderful daddy to her. I am in contact with my ex’s parent and his parent has talked to him for me in regards to signing over his rights, and just as with the divorce, he refuses to sign the paperwork. Even before I got married, my ex never wanted anything to do with our child. I know he sees not signing over his rights as a control factor. That was one of his abusive qualities was that he was very controlling. My child and I live out of state with my husband (her daddy). My ex lives in another state, although I don’t know where in that state, but I do know what state (Alabama). My question is how do I go about getting his rights relinquished. I have looked up Alabama law, and I have many factors already that would allow me to have his rights relinquished by a judge, which I figured would probably end up being the way to do this. How long does this take? Do I file in the state of child custody and child support filing or in the state we live in? How do I go about doing this when I don’t know where in the state of Alabama my ex lives? Can we do this on our own, or do we have to pay for an attorney? How long after his rights are relinquished can my husband adopt “our” daughter? Please HELP ME! Thank you very much!

  • If your divorce and the custody order were issued in Alabama, Alabama will retain jurisdiction until the Alabama court releases it, so you should start there and find a good adoption attorney. The attorney will be able to figure out how to serve BioDad. While you’re working to do that, avoid contacting BioDad or asking for any support from him. That may be pivotal in the step-parent adoption proceeding.

  • GraphicArtsMom

    Thank you so much! I have done EXACTLY that! I don’t have any contact with him and have not had any contact with him since 2004, and like I told the child support enforcement worker who has had my case for the past 2 yrs., I don’t care if I don’t ever get any of that money. I don’t want it! The money is useless when my child has a REAL DADDY who loves her and takes good care of her…and WANTS her! Yes, the divorce and child custody were in Alabama. Thanks again!

  • Hi!

    I have a son who is 10 yrs.old. Me and his alleged father were together for some time on and off. About 8 years ago I got a paternity test with a different man which turned out to be the father of my son. The alleged father is the only known father my son knows, but at the same time the legal father is willing to give up his parental rights without a fight. The alleged father has no knowlegde of any of these proceedings. during the entire 10 yrs. of my sons life the legal father has never visited my son nor provided support for him. I know its wrong to keep this information hidden but I will not jeopardize my sons and his alleged fathers relationship no matter what the cost. He has faithfully supported my son and my son doesnt know any other the man as daddy but him. Is there any legal process that will allow his legal father to give up his parental rights?

  • In answering your question, I assume that there’s no decree of any kind dealing with custody of this child, so when you say “legal father” you mean “biological father.” I also assume that you weren’t married to either man when you conceived this child. First, you should read this post from a couple of years ago and make sure you’re willing to keep this secret forever: http://divorceinfo.com/blog/?p=129.

    If you are, then why do you need to do anything? If bio-Dad is content to leave this alone, why not just let the status quo stand? If the man you call the “alleged father” (the one your son calls Dad) is trying now to avoid supporting him, he has the right to request a paternity test, which would disclose your secret. And if he’s not, do you need to do anything?

  • Stacey

    Hi my ex has 50 percent custody of my son, he now is serving 6 months in the county jail for a tresspassing charge, can i do anything about the 50 percent custody now?

  • Moving On....

    Hi,
    I’ve recently came across your website and found some of the information very helpful. I do, however, have a question about terminating maternal rights. My husband and I have been married for 20 years, but were separated last year. During our separation, he had an affair and the other woman became pregnant. We have since reconciled. After paternity was established, we petitioned the courts for custody and won. The baby is now 10 months old. The bio mother has standard visitation and has been ordered to pay child support. Apparently, she has 2 or 3 other children that she doesn’t have custody of. The bio mother has been in/out of jail for the past 5 years and, from what we understand, she has voluntarily given the other kids away.

    What needs to happen, or should I say, what grounds will constitute my petition for adoption/termination of her rights?

  • First, think long and hard about whether you want to do this. What happens, for example, if Dad divorces you and goes back to Bimbo (stranger things have happened)? Then you’re paying child support for your Ex’s love child.

    That having been said, if you’re REALLY SURE you want to do this, you can’t until Mom either voluntarily gives up her parental rights or has no contact, no support with the child for a year or so (your adoption lawyer will be able to tell you how long your judge is likely to demand).

  • Shane

    Mr. Borden,
    I went through a very rough divorce in Alabama with accusations of me abusing my ex-wife and her child. We had a child together and she wanted me to have nothing to do with the child. I figured that would be best thinking she would acuse me of abusing my child and constantly fighting that. Since then my wife has moved to Texas and is remarried. Her new husband wants to adopt my child and I am willing to terminate parental rights. She is in the Military and the JAG office says I must initiate the adoption process by terminating parental rights. My lawyer says she must initiate the process and send me the paperwork to sign…………….What do I do?? Can I start by terminating parental rights. I would love to have her out of my life forever. please help.

  • Hi,
    How do I talk with to find out why a Deadbeat-Dad & Deadbeat-Mom for non-payment of Child
    Support and it was Court Order by the Tuscaloosa Juvenile Court in Alabama…We went this morning
    but they knew nothing at the Juvenile Court Bldg. and there mom&dad is 3 month’s behind….how
    do We file this violations of the Court Order

  • Kimberly

    I have a question, I had my daughter almost 5 years ago the guys has never been in my life or her life, never met my daughter. He is not on the birth certificate and she doesn’t have his last name. My husband has been there since I was 7 months pregnant and wants to adopt my daughter. The father has never paid a dime and there is no custody or payment agreements. I just want him to sign away or have the courts have him sign away his rights to my daughter so my husband can adopt her. What should I do?

  • Talk to a good adoption lawyer in your area. If he’s had no contact and no support for more than four years, it shouldn’t be difficult.

  • Kimberly

    Thank you for the feed back is there a way to get him for abandonment?

  • I don’t know about “getting” him, but the reason for the no contact and no support qualifier is that this is the crucial groundwork for a claim that he has abandoned his parental rights.

  • Susan McNaught

    I have a son now is 5 his father is not listed on the Birth certicate and have not heard hide nor hair since March 2006. How do I keep this dead beet dad from coming around later and requesting a paternity and coming into this little mans life. Oh by the way we live in Idaho

  • If you have another father ready, willing, and able to adopt your son, talk to a good adoption lawyer about the chances of showing that Bio-dad has abandoned his parental rights, thus clearing the way for adoption. If you don’t, save your money. No judge I know would be willing to bastardize a child by decree.

  • Lisa

    My ex-husband and I divorced when my son was 4. They had never had a close relationship, and he was somewhat afraid of him because he was so harsh, but not physically abusive. He visited every other weekend only because he had to and has always looked forward to his 13th birthday because we had been told at that age he didn’t have to go if he didn’t want to. I am remarried and have a daughter and he called every weekend crying and begging to come home. His dad has always been verbally and emotionally abusive. He is a heavy drinker and an athiest which effects my son greatly. My son has missed many Mondays at school due to nerves and has seen a counselor on and off since the divorce. Oct. of 07 his dad physically abused. I immediatley hired an attorney and filed a motion to terminate rights. The school contacted DHR and they made a permanent record and put him on a safety plan. His dad makes $30,000 more now then when when we divorced and has never paid his 1/2 of the non covered medical. He quit a job 3 years ago leaving my son uninsured. My current husband has carried him on his since then. He lived with his girlfriend and her 2 children for 4 years and they married 2 days after being served with my petition in Oct. 07. My attorney has done nothing, we have missed court dates and looked non compliant and made some unethical remarks and when I threatened to file a complaint with the bar he filed a motion to withdraw making me look like the one that was hard to work with.
    I have no more money. How do I get an attorney now and how will this effect the way the judge looks at my case? Also, I felt like this was a slam dunk, what do you think?
    Is my son old enough to make his own decision?

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