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.”

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246 thoughts on “What Does It Take To Terminate Parental Rights?”

  1. My name is Janice, and I’ve been involved in a serious relationship with a man for 10 months. We recently moved in together (2 weeks ago), and yesterday morning, he physically assaulted me (Domestic Violence 3rd degree) and then walked out on me, stating that he would not be back. I had confronted him about evidence of unfaithfulness, and he got angry, threw me into a bed post, and abandoned me. And I’m currently 11 weeks pregnant with his child. I immediately filed a police report and obtained a protection from abuse order. My question is this…
    I do not want this man to have parental rights to this baby, and I know he will attempt to excercise his rights, because he has threatened to do so. But I do not believe that my child would be safe in his presence, and I believe he gave up his rights the moment he assaulted the mother of his unborn child and abandoned us. Do I have grounds to fight him on this? If so, how do I go about that? Please help. I’m giving birth in 26 weeks, and I need to have my affairs in order by then. Thanks so much! OH! And one more thing…and I don’t know if this makes a difference…but he is still legally married to someone else, and he’s been investigated by DHR with regard to his other children just a few months ago. Someone reported him as being a substance abuser and abusive of his children. As far as I know, the case is closed. But I’m not sure.

  2. I have two children 8yrs and 9yrs.. they have had no contact with their father for 2 yrs now. I have just closed the child support case, which he did not show up to and ordered to pay by default. I do not wish to collect any payment from him and I never have. He has had great troubles with the law, none of which were felonies.. and in 5 yrs, has only seen him a handful of times.. I have no contact with him. I am to be married soon to a great stepdad that has been raising them for 4 yrs! We want him to adopt.. how difficult will this be if the biological father is to deny terminating his rights voluntarily? He has had no job, and has lived off and on the streets since we split.

  3. I have guardianship of my 2 grandkids the judge gave the parents 18 months to have a job the whole time and do drug test and drug treatment the father has done nothing the judge said and no child support or visits January will be a year he moved to Michigan he said Oklahoma judge can’t make him do it kids live in Oklahoma can his rights be termated

  4. i have two kids the age of 14 and 12 my ex hasnt paid child support in a year hasnt seen them in 2 years he owes child support and decided to move out of state my kids are at the point they dont want anything to do with him do to the laick on not contact or support they feel that he dosent want them they have a step dad that does everthing for them what can i do i have contacted child support nothings been done ..

  5. My daughter has physical custody of my 5 year old grandson. The father hasn’t seen nor attempted to make contact with his son in a little over two years. He’s behind approximately $3500 on child support, but “when” he has a job, the state of Alabama garnishes his wages but only for the court ordered amout per month. My daughter remarried two years ago after dating for a year. The step father has practically raised the child and wants to adopt. They also have a little girl. They are a happy family until the biological father rears his head wanting to visit. His visits will last about 2-3 months then no contact for a year. Does my daughter stand a chance of getting his rights taken away? She doesn’t care about the money. Her only concern is for her son. As I said, he’s only five years old and only sweb his read dad probably a total of three months in five years.

  6. my daughters bilogical father hasn’t seen her since her first birthday she is now 8.5 and he had only seen her three times since she was born. my husband is looking to adopt her he has been in her life for 4+ yrs. I’ve done research on her biological father and have found out that he and his wife has lost custody of there three children something to do with sexual assult and neglecting them. Anyways with her biological father losing rights to his other kids is there away the courts could go around him and terminate his rights to my daughter. I’m afraid if he gets served the pappers that im suing for his rights for my husband to adopt her that he will try to jump in and have something to do with her and i don’t wont her in that kind of environment.

  7. I have a 2 year old grand daughter and her mother got locked up in jail for a year ..well the babies grandfather went to court and got them to take her rights away from her for abandonment ..what can she do to get her back ..where can she start ? thank you so much..

  8. My son is nearly 3 years old his dad has stoped seeing his son on numerous occasions last year for 6 months, 2 months here and there and now this year he last saw his dad 6 months ago not even contacted him at Christmas, I always wanted my son to have his dad in his life as my son adores his dad but there’s only so much i can do it’s obvious he doesn’t want to take responsibility, I have went through child support agency but haven’t received any payments at all because he changes jobs all the time, I dnt want my son to b constantly let down its not fair, I can’t make him see his son, I just want to know if there’s a form for his dad to sign his rights over, and what happens with child support would that automatically stop as soon as he gives up his rights even tho I haven’t had any payments? Or would he still need to pay child support?

  9. Yes i am looking to terminate my rights as a father. This is last resort. Im married have a 7 year old step son. I have a 10 month old and another on the way. My 8 year old son from previous relationship mother has given me straight hell with out going into details to the point where i can no longer take the mental abuse. We have court orders i have the regular deal every other weekend pay child support. I cant prove her unfit so there is no point for full custody fight. I just want her out of my life because what she is doing now is affecting my new family and im at the end of my rope. I honestly can not handle any more if her drama. Its aliving nightmare. I cant afford council at this point. I take care of my fam and oaychild support. We live paycheck to paycheck while she sits sta house and watches her bew baby all day. I still want to pay child support just want her out of my life. Please please help

  10. My sons father hasn’t seen my son in 3 years and stopped paying child support 2 years ago. My son is now 5 and has no idea who he is. What would be the best thing to do? I really want to terminate his rights as there is no point hI’m bring in my son life. I have a boyfriend whom my son calls dad and really thinks he is, for over 2 years. I’m not sure if I ever want to get married but it’s basically as if we were.

  11. My son is 6 yrs old. His father only pays child support when child support calls him and forces the issue. He calls maybe once every 3 to 4 months to check on him. He might visit him 1 to 2 times a year. Like to cause fights in my family every holiday. Constantly tells his new gf’s that he’s going to sue for custody but hasn’t even filed for visitation. When there is a medical appt he’s supposed to come to, he always has an excuse why he doesn’t. Do I have any grounds for termination?

  12. My son is 9 my ex has been in prison for 4 years I have full sole custody he just got out last week and wants visits to my son can I terminate his rights I’m in pa

    1. No. Dad had a valid reason for no visitation. Now that he’s out and requesting visitation, you’re obligated to comply with the judge’s order.

      1. Hey I was hoping you could help me I went to court today in Alabama I have been fighting dhr for going on 19 months and I have never failed a drug screen and completed everything they have asked in the ISP now they are wanting to file for tpr after working with me for that long because I have been terminated before on my 17 year old so now the judge said today that reasonable efforts are not required what can I do can o still have my baby back I have done everything and took full responsibility of my mistake

      2. Sounds like you need to build a case for your own parenting. Start with the custody factors at http://divorceinfo.com/alcustodyfactors.htm and make an objective, clear-eyed analysis of where you messed up and what you have done to address each one. Then present it to the judge as calmly and objectively as you can.

  13. I have a daughter who is 4 years old. Her biological father and I were never married. We do have a child support order in place by Mississippi DHS. He has never paid anything in the time that the child support case has been opened (about 3 years). He is thousands behind in child support and arrearages. He of course has been found in contempt of court on numerous occasions and doesn’t even bother showing up to court anymore. He hasn’t seen my daughter in 18 months. Last time he did see her, he was arrested for domestic violence and assaulted the police officers at his father’s home. This incident resulted in him being tazed twice, all of this was in front of my little girl. She had nightmares for months, even started wetting herself. She has bad memories of this man, he has multiple domestic violence and assault charges on his record. Countless drug charges and a felony sale charge. He moved almost 8 hours away and we never saw him again. A Google search showed he had been arrested several times over the last year, and as of last month there was a manhunt for him which was on the news where he lives and lasted two days. He was apparently high on methamphetamines and was in a stolen car with a girl and ran from a traffic stop and then fled on foot into some woods. I believe he is still incarcerated, but I have no way of knowing really. His family has never shown any interest in my daughter, they don’t even show interest in him though. My daughter does have his last name because he did sign the birth certificate. I moved 15 miles away from our old home, but I crossed the Tennessee state line in that short distance. I need this guys parental rights terminated. He needs to never be able to come in and traumatize my child again. She still has all of these anger issues and behavioral issues that we are currently seeking help for now. I am currently married and we have a son together. My husband wants to adopt my daughter. She chose to start calling him daddy about 9 months ago. We never told her to call him daddy, but that’s just the way she felt. My husband has loved and supported her in every way. Is there anything I can do if the biological father has told me that he would never sign anything that would make my life easier? He said he wouldn’t sign his rights away simply out of spite. What state do I hire an attorney from? Tennessee is where we are residents but Mississippi is where my daughter was born and where the ignored child support order is from. There is no custody agreement what so ever in place which is obviously a security issue for us as well. Thanks for any input, I am just not sure where to start this process.

    1. It takes no contact, no support for a period that varies by state, but it’s typically going to take a couple of years before the judge will terminate parental rights. Telling me all the bad things he’s done doesn’t help. Just wait until you have no contact, no support for at least two years, and then you and your husband can talk to a good adoption lawyer.

  14. Mr. Borden hello. I have two children from a past marriage whom are 16 and 14. Their father rarely accepts them for the standard visitations and has failed to pay child support in the ordered amount of $1492/mo. He is an attorney. He currently owes over $30,000.00 in child support since 2011 alone and has failed after multiple letters from my ex attorney to add the children to his health insurance as it was also court ordered for him to do so in 2011. My husband and I have provided and paid a hefty amount of health insurance for the boys since my husband is self employed and it costs more in Alabama for self employed people. 1) How can I make him pay the arrears and also make the court add the defaulted health insurance to the arrears and call it child support since he blatantly has refused to do what he was ordered by the judge? 2) He has failed to accept the children on their scheduled visitations-for instance he’s only gotten them four times since July 2015 and it is now March 2016. He always has an excuse. I have had to keep them home when sick/or have been recently twice and that is because he doesn’t want them there if they are sick-he refused to get them. I have the texts to support all my claims saved to prove the above allegations. 3) Can his paternal rights be taken away if I can prove that he has refused to have anything to do with his children because he is selfish and self serving?
    Can you provide an overview of your opinion on this matter?

    1. He’s present enough that you’re not going to terminate parental rights. Talk to child services in your state and get a file set up. They’ll stay after it and keep putting the pressure on him. Eventually, I bet he starts paying. As an attorney, he can’t live below the radar screen and avoid you forever.

  15. Hi my name is Allissa I have a 7 year old son he has had no contact with his bio dad in 7 years his name is not on the birth certificate I got pregnant at 15,,he was 18, in 2009he was put in jail for me being underage then he never paid child support he then went to prison BC of a no contact order with me he broke his contact order then he started selling drugs mainly cocaine and pills and was getting high all the time and went to prison for that . it is now 2016 and he admitted that he didn’t want to be a father. He also has a daughter the courts terminated his rights to that baby he has only.paid 100$, for child support that we have not received by we I mean my fiance and I . my fiance wants to legally adopt my son and as far as I knew it was ok with his bio dad he has never done anything for my.son my fiance has stepped up when my.son was 2,years old and started providing for him and has been there for my son through anything he needs. Also would like to point out that his bio dad is a registered sex offender I did not know that until after I was pregnant . as of right now I want any rights to be legally terminated by the court all he is doing is hurting and lying to my son I will not go through visitation as my 7 year old son has told me on his own that he wants nothing to do will his bio dad he said he doesn’t like him he refers my fiance to be his dad he’s been calling him daddy since he was 2,years old. Will it be really hard for the judge to terminate his right because as I see it will no contact for 7 years , being a drug dealer , in and out of prison being abusive towards women he needs anger management, he cannot legally get a job , he is a registered sex offender a child predictor an alchohalic and he literally cannot take care of himself mentally he is just creating problems for everyone around him and so he doesn’t have to pay child support he is working under the table and doesn’t want the courts to fond out he is living on the streets and his other child he had his rights terminated for the same reasoning …. Wouldn’t the court take my side and terminate them ?, I’m needing the right to be terminated please help.me

    1. It’s hard for me to tell from your fact statement, but I think you’re saying Dad has had no contact with his son and provided no support for several years. In most states, that would give you grounds for terminating his parental rights if you have another daddy waiting in the wings and ready to step in.

  16. In the state of California.
    My sons mother had passed away. I was in a men’s home at the time this all happen. So my son was properly handed over to her parents. Let me get to the point if I have visitation rights with my son, and the grandparents are trying to terminate my rights and get me for abandoned my son. So even if I’m going through all this my question is do I still have the right to still proceed my visits? I gave the grandparents temperaily gaurdingship..

  17. I was divorced from my husband in Aug 2015. As part of the divorce he said he was going back to his home state of Minnesota and would continue to pay child support and keep contact with our 9 yr old daughter by mail. He has done none of that. In fact, I have no idea where in Minnesota he is living, and have no way at all to contact him. Despite telling the courts he couldn’t live without his daughter, he has abandoned her. He never even tried to tell her goodbye, even with his supervised visits. And he stopped doing those 3 months before we were divorced because the people supervising wouldn’t let him control the visits. How long do I have to wait, and what do I have to do to have his parental rights revoked?

    1. First, you need no contact and no support for two years or more. Then you need a substitute daddy waiting in the wings and ready to step into the role of your daughter’s father, including liability to pay child support if you and he part company down the road. If you have those two things, you and he are ready to go see a good adoption lawyer together.

  18. My friend and his girlfriend were indicted on a injury to child 3rd degree felony. Their children were taken by CPS. She went to court and was found guilty, he will soon follow with an upcoming court date as well but he has two cases (a case that I’m assuming was closed and then reopened after this last incident). If both are convicted what will happen to the kids? What will happen to them? She doesn’t have a record but he already has a felony and spent a few years in prison.

  19. My brothers wife is controlling the way he visits his kids because he filed for a divorce. He’s in the military and has provided her 6years of financial stability also paid for her masters degree and she refuses to work and wants to get on welfare once the divorce is settled. My brother has documented proof (police report) saying she left the children (1&3) in the home alone on base while she left post to go to Walmart. This wasn’t the first time she did this but the first time she got caught she has also locked the youngest child in the house multiple times (1yr) while she went to the school bus stop to retrieve the 3yr old….while doing this she would always call him telling him she locked the little girl in the home and he should unlock the door for her….to my knowledge she did this twice in one week and claimed it to be an accident he is to nice and never calls the police but would run to his child’s aid. She uses the militaries programs against him which embarrassed him to his unit saying he doesn’t feed her or the kids and what not she claimed both children on her taxes because of her recent 3mon working stunt and received money but she technically did not provide for them he did as he continues to. I tell him all the time not to allow her to control how he sees his kids but he wants not trouble with his unit as she had been making his life a living hell calling his commander….he is filing for full custody and is in the process of retiring in a few months ….very soon!! Does he have a chance or is the police report not enough
    City: Columbus

    1. Please understand that I know nothing of Georgia law, so anything I say is strictly a layman’s perspective. Also understand that this comment is about a struggle for child custody, not termination of parental rights.

      Acknowledging those two points, certainly your brother has a chance of winning a custody fight. He just needs to remember that there are basically no winners in a child custody fight. It leaves both parents bloodied, battered, and bitter. And it’s usually less about cataloging outrages, which you have done, and more about methodically evaluating how each parent has performed on EACH of the child custody factors used in your state. If your brother is serious about winning this, he should start with that.

      There’s a really good page on all this here on Divorceinfo.com (if I do say so myself). I hope you recommend it to your brother.

  20. so I found out after being with my husband for 6 years married for 6months that he had a child when he was 16 he is now 25 he told me he gave up his right as well as the mom and the baby got adopted by the birthmother mom and husband . My question is for him to give up his rights as he sated he did would he for sure have to have a DNA done to prove he was the father ? there for could give his right m thankyou really hope you respond . am in texas

    1. No, not necessarily. He could have insisted on a DNA test, but I would be surprised if there was a requirement that he complete one.

  21. I am a father of young daughter not even one yet, she will be one in September, we are going through a custody battle and the only thing I want is to have standard visitations, I also have a son he’s almost three from a different mom and I never had to go through this with her at all she lets me have him almost half the time, I am required to pay support on both my kids, but to get to the point of my daughters situation her mom had asked for a hair follicle drug test and I told my attorney I wouldn’t be able to pass it, it’s only marijuana and nothing else I did fail it but our court date isn’t until July, the only way for me to see my daughter is if I go over there to see her, she don’t trust me and she thinks that I’m an unfit parent and that the house I live in which is my moms is unfit, I have made a lot of mistakes yes but I’m human, my record is clean so three isn’t anything to use against me besides choices and the drug test, all I want to do is have my basic standard visitations every other weekend and she won’t even give that to me, she told me the other day that I’m uncapable to have my daughter alone, and she wants supervised visitations, will she get that???? We both have attorneys and my attorney is pretty good and so is hers. I’m nervous on how the outcome will come out to be, if it’s supervised visitations I’m not taking it I’m not gonna be watched while I spend time with my daughter!!! As anyone been through this mess Before?

    1. Keep in mind that judges are people too. There’s a good chance that the judge probably has one or more family members who smoke marijuana, so if that’s her only beef with your parenting, I would be surprised if that would be troublesome.

      For now, the best thing you can do to ensure the judge that you deserve that full visitation is to take advantage of every opportunity Mom gives you. Show up on time, showered, looking nice, spend time with your child, and don’t create trouble. Demonstrate that you are an attentive daddy who loves his little girl and just wants to be a good daddy to her.

  22. I have two sons with my first husband Hunter (17-18 next month) and Jacob (16 1/2). Their bio father was ordered to pay child support when they were 3 and 4.( but we split up when they were 2 and 6 months) He is around $108,000.00 behind in child support. We have been to court a few times over it. The first time his grandmother made a months payment. And one other time over the 15 years he made a $65.00 payment.(to get out of a warrant.) He has only seen them a handful of times in this 15 years.(all were a bad situation.) He has not seen them at all in the last ten years except in passing at the ball field and stuff. (Him with his other children) He has at least 3 other children with 3 other mothers. My husband has helped to raise them for all of this 15 years. And has been a father.(We got a lawyer an tried to do a name change. $900.00 later we were told we had to do something else first.) We want nothing more than for them to graduate with our last name and start adult life with our family name. The boys want this too. What is my next step? How do I make this happen for our boys?

  23. I have a nephew who doesn’t have a house, a car, or a job. His girlfriend is in the same shape. They signed a waiver to give me full custody of my nephew we go to court to finalize everything on June 14. They do not pay anything towards him when they do have a job or call and ask to see him. The only time I hear from them is when they need something. He is on probation and fixing to go to jail for a month or so doe to probation being revoked due to no payment, drug use, and not showing up! The mother is fixing to leave for 3 months to get her CDL and it will require extensive travel what are the odds of us being able to adopt him. We got him at 5 weeks old a d he is 8 1/2 now they both are drug users and he is not the only child involved but the only one I can take because I he is my nephews and the other one is just hers

  24. Excellent analysis . I am thankful for the insight , Does anyone know where my business might be able to get access to a fillable GA Complaint for Divorce With Minor Children – Dekalb example to fill out ?

  25. I have a 15 month old grandson who is protected under an order of protection against his father ( no dna but sign voluntary parental statement, however; if DNA was done there is no question the child ~ biologically the child IS NOT his) my question is, dad is not providing or cooperating with visitation, ( not providing basic needs forMula, wipes ect.now dad said he is moving out of state & wants visitation 2 weekends a month in that state under the order of protection my daughter has, in all likelihood would a judge EVER grant that?? To my understanding it would go through family Court not an option, and even then, most likely since dad has no license chances would be slim at best???

    1. Sure, there’s a good chance a court would order visitation. So it’s up to Mom to show an alternative. She needs to present her own plan that maintains the relationship between Dad and the child without endangering the child.

  26. My mom has a 15 year old adopted son and he recently have been acting out. He always says to her ,”send me back to DHR”and he recently just burned one of her other foster kids with and iron. He says it was accidentally. How or can she go to DHR herself and relinquish her rights from him. She lives in Alabama. But she can’t sleep well with him in her house and she have other kids there. How can she proceed?

    1. Tell Mom to contact the local police and explain what’s going on. They can suggest options for her.

  27. My Daughter is 7 currently. I’m wanting to terminate her biological fathers rights. I’ve had court ordered child support but he still didn’t pay he’d work a little get fired suspend child support get unemployment get a few checks once that’s out he’d suspend the order again. This was a ongoing thing back and forth for a couple of years. Then it went to coming up on a year with no payment at all even tho it was court ordered he had suspended as well as lowered it to $50.00 per month right before suspension. So approaching the 1 year of absolutely nothing we (my husband and myself had chosen to close it) closed the support order. During this time he has not asked about her or anything. The last time anything was said was right after the order was lowered and with him having it on suspension for over a year prior he was never held accountable for any of that times payments. He asked to sign off rights in the past then changed his mind. He has been arrested for violence as well domestic abuse I believe he put his hands on his girlfriends. I have messages with him asking to sleep with me and I turned him down then he asked about my daughter. The only time he’s been around her was when we were “seeing each other”. I’m married now 2 years in October. I’ve also known my husband for about 8 years we have 2 children together. We own our house no mortgage or anything and he’d like to adopt her. What do you think my chances would be of successfully terminating his rights involuntarily

    1. If I’m understanding the facts, and if this is in AL, it sounds like you have a good chance. What you need is no contact, no support for going on two years. If you have that, go see a lawyer who does adoptions. The adoption lawyer will file to terminate BioDad’s rights and allow adoption by your husband (can’t usually do the first without showing the second is ready).

  28. how do I know if my right have been terminated? My half/sister has custody I have been fighting for the last 4 yrs. I have never got any letter reading ” termination of rights”. They took my son and the father wasn’t involved at the time. Now we are married and fighting together. We only have unsupervised visitation as in right now. Please help! thank-you

    1. Go to the Juvenile Court armed with the full name and social security number of your son. They should be able to look up your son’s case and let you look it over. If you read it carefully, you’ll see what the current status is. Take a smartphone so you can take nice clear pics of the key documents (saves those horrendous copy charges).

  29. I am currently fighting to get my daughter back. My 2 year old daughter has been placed in my aunt’s care for the time being because my babysitter was attested for shoplifting when she had my daughter. The mother has moved across the country from us and is not in contact nor is she following the steps provided to us to get my daughter back. The mother has been gone for 2 months so far. What are the chances of me getting full custody?

  30. I have a 3 year old son who’s dad is a felon and he barely even calls or wants to give me any money to support him. My other daughters dad has took on the responsibility of being his father. Now his actual dad is trying to take him away from me as well as try to make me seem as a unfit parent because one of my kids live with her grandmother.. Is there anyway I can stop him from getting any visitation? He says he has a lawyer and he’s going to make me pay.

    1. In my experience, judges are pretty good about compartmentalizing claims about the welfare and parenting of children. That is, it’s relatively rare for a judge to decide a parent is making a poor decision about one child because another child is living elsewhere. Focus your attention on your parenting of the child you share with this man. If your parenting of this child is sound, you’re probably in good shape. That having been said, make sure you have constructed and documented a sound rationale for your decision to have your daughter live with Grandma. You don’t need to convince your son’s Dad, and you sure don’t need to convince the world in general, but be prepared if the question comes up to convince a judge that your decision was in your daughter’s best interest.

  31. I need some advice. My husband left in November 2015 told me and my daughter it was for a job 320 miles away in another state. We found out in January 2016 he had moved in with another woman and her family together. There never was a job and still neither one work they live off her family and her mental issues check. I have tried to get him to help with child support I text him about her he doesn’t try to see her cause he says she is mad at him. But at 12 years old she now she has said she no longer wants to be in his life. We have just found out the last few weeks. The other woman whom now he is engaged to. Has lost her 3 children due to drugs and is now wanted in about 3 states and is looking at 12 to 20 years she is also legally married to someone else and at this time we are still legally married. My daughter father hasn’t paid anything since January and last time she seen him was February when he told her the other women was more important. If she tries to say anything now about her feelings he tells her to leave the other women out of it that he loves that woman and that’s what matters. This woman knew he had a wife and child but still got involved with him. What can I do really need some advice.

    We live in Alabama. They live in Louisiana.

    1. It’s too early to talk about terminating his parental rights. I would start by filing for child support with DHR in AL. That should bring forth lots of conversation from Dad; if you are relentless about collecting child support, you may find that to be the best incentive available to persuade Dad to surrender his parental rights. Before you file this, however, you’ll need to have another father ready and willing to step into Dad’s shoes and adopt your daughter. Until you do, just concentrate on getting child support out of him.

  32. During my first marriage I along with my husband was left with the responsibility of his great niece with medical bills at hand we had adopted her do she could be on our insurance. Years later our marriage did not work out and we divorced. The child stayed with him, as she was his family and I did not have contact with her at all. I now live in a different state and 7 years later she is now 14 I am being threatened with child support… Can I be liable?

    1. If you adopted this child, you took on the financial responsibility for her. Yes, you can now be liable for child support.

      Parents and would-be parents beware: this could happen to you. Before you adopt someone in your spouse’s family, think long and hard about whether you’re willing to be responsible for the child even if you’re no longer married.

  33. Hi my 11 yr daughter asked her father who has not seen her since she was 2 and owes over 13,000 in child support, if he’d sign over his right so the man that she knows as her father (he’s been there since I was 3 months pregnant) could adopt her and he agreed, now we are not married but no one’s name is on the birth certificate other than mine could you tell me my options?

    1. If your boyfriend is serious about becoming your daughter’s Dad with all that this entails, then he should be serious enough to hire a good adoption lawyer to get it done. If he’s not, there’s no need to push it.

      If Biodad is willing to sign documents terminating Biodad’s parental rights and by which your boyfriend adopts her, the cost of the papers should not be exorbitant. However, be prepared for a challenge from the adoption lawyer to your boyfriend, anticipating the same challenge from the judge: if you’re not committed enough to this relationship to marry this child’s mother, how do you know you’re committed enough to adopt this child, an adoption that’s more permanent and harder to change than your marriage to her Mom?

  34. My step daughter has not seen or talked to her mother in 6 months. Prior to that 6 months she would go long periods of time without seeing her, months at a time. She doesn’t pay any child support and my step daughter asked me if I could adopt her since I am the one she regards as her momma. I hAve been married to her daddy for several years and provide insurance and everything my step daughter needs. My step daughter does not want any contact with her mother because she is constantly without a place to live, car, cell phone, has had her around accused sexual predators and is currently homeless and married to a guy that has multiple felonies. She doesn’t trust her mom and said she wants me to adopt her for peace of mind and security that I will always be the one to take care of her. My step daughter is 10. Is there anyway to make this happen? 7 months or so ago my husband asked his ex to sign over her rights and she refused and said she wouldn’t because if he died the child would be hers and she would draw his SS check and use it to raise my step daughter. Any chance of an involuntary termination of her rights or advice?

    1. You’ll need more than six months of no contact, no support from Biomom before you file to terminate her parental rights. When you have a year, contact a good adoption lawyer in your area and find out whether that’s enough and what would be involved. In the meantime, all of you should go out of your way to avoid conversation with Biomom, because any conversation involving Biomom and your stepdaughter starts the clock all over again.

  35. My husband has a baby with a woman that he slept (never married or dated) with way before we got together and she never notified him she was pregnant and waited until the kid was 4 months old to tell him. Now they’re trying to take all of our money and the woman is crazy af. We are moving across the country and neither one of us want anything to do with the child or her and we have our own baby on the way. Is there any way he can terminate his rights? He won’t ever see the child again either way so what’s the point in keeping his rights?

    1. Not his decision. Remember that, as far as the judge is concerned, the needs of the minor child trump any concerns about Mom’s mental state. I get it that this sucks for your husband, and even more for you because you’re totally innocent, but it would suck even more for the child if her needs get ignored because of who decided to conceive her.

  36. Hello Lee,

    My daughter is 11 years old.

    I currently have an open child support / visitation agreement within the state of Florida.

    Non-custodial Father has been found in contempt numerous times ($46,000 in support/arrears) and gave up partial time sharing because he was forgetting to pick her up from school on his days or couldn’t find a ride. At the time he was also under investigation by the Department of Children and Families for drug use (marijuana/other) but the investigation had to be closed because he moved and could not be found.

    Tired of getting in trouble by the law for non-payment of support he moved to California. Told our daughter the reason for leaving was because he had to find a job so that he could give me money to help pay child support* (This obviously made her upset and feel guilty)
    He contacted our daughter only a handful of times after he left – promised gifts and visits but never did. Almost a year had passed and he still did not tell me his address. If he gave me his address I would agree to let our daughter travel to visit him accompanied by his mother (Child’s grandmother) who signed a notarized for agreeing to accompany her at all times including all overnight stays. Grandma and I also talked about my concerns about his drug use.

    I spoke with my daughter everyday throughout the week she was with in California. it seemed as thought everything was fine but when she got back, she broke down and told me that her father told her he moved to California so that he could smoke pot. She said that he did it in front of her with grandma present. Also that he smoked while driving in the car with her. Grandma has since told me to not interrogate her and has threatened grandparents rights (which don’t exist in Florida.

    Does this give me any chance at terminating his rights?
    He also has not paid any support since he left Florida. Before he left he only paid the minimum – every 3 or 4 months $100….

    I don’t think anyone understands the emotional damage that has already occurred here.
    I doubt her father would consent to my current husband (stepfather) adopting her. Would the judge take into account that my husband is more than willing to do this and has provided for her all along – she also has half siblings by my husband and I – ages 2 and 1.

    Thank You for your time – support – and much needed guidance for parents in need.
    Lanie *

    1. I cannot speak for FL specifically, but in most states you would need either for Dad to agree to do this or be able to show a year or more of no contact and no support. Keep careful records. If you get to a year with no contact and no support, it’s probably time to contact a good adoption lawyer in your area who can tell you the specifics about what is required and how much it would cost.

  37. I want to terminate the parental rights of the father of my child. He has only seen her one time when she was a newborn and she is about to turn one, he is currently in jail, he stays on drugs and he cannot keep a job. Also recently him and his girlfriend had got her little girl took en away from them while she gets supervised visitation he is not allowed around her any. His mom also told me that she does not want her grand baby around her own son, and she warned me that he has been makes threats and bragging about getting me beaten up and taking my baby and running. What do I do, I’m confused cause I don’t know how to go about this and I was willing to work on him seeing her until finding out all of this, I don’t want violence or drugs around my baby, PLEASE HELP…

    1. As long as he’s incarcerated you’ll get nowhere trying to force a termination of parental rights, because his incarceration gives him a total excuse for not paying child support and a partial excuse for no contact. Wait until he is released. After that, if you have a year or more of no contact and no support, AND if you have a new daddy ready and willing to step in and take his place, then it’s time to go see a good adoption lawyer in your area who can tell you what’s required and how much it would cost.

  38. I have a pfa against my ex husband, he walked out on our daughter at 3 months, came back at 9 months for only two weeks and then left again. She is now one and cries every time she sees even a picture of him. He has not bought her a single thing since the day she was born. Can I get his parental rights terminated

    1. When you have a year or more of no contact, no support, AND if you have a new daddy ready and willing to adopt your daughter and become a financially responsible parent, you’re ready to talk to a good adoption lawyer in your area to find out exactly what is required and what this will cost.

  39. Hi
    I am from Durban in South Africa, my wife and took care of a baby girl since she was 3 days old as her mother is a prostitute and on drugs as well as the father. My baby girl is now 5 but the mother wants her back and says she is no more on drugs but she is still prostituting and her dad sells drugs from home, what are my rights as the baby only know that my wife and myself are her parents.

    1. First, thank you for stepping in and providing a loving, stable home for this child at a critical time. Whatever happens now, you can always know what a difference you made in the life of this child.

      I can’t speak for your state. In mine the focus would be on providing a stable environment for the child, not the rights of her biological mother or the role any temporary parents have provided. You say you “took care” of this child, but you have not said you have custody of her. At a time like this, I believe that matters.

      If I were the judge, I would want to see Mom demonstrate during multiple and consistent visitation that her parenting is now reliable, child-focused, and drama-free. Only after she does that over a period of years would I be willing to talk about changing custody, and even then the question wouldn’t be an easy one.

  40. I have a 13 month old baby boy. His “sperm donor” has not been n tha picture at all n now I have a wonderful man whom my lil boy calls daddy. Since I had my son I have moved to a different state. My question is can my boyfriend sign tha birth certificate because that is my son real daddy? If not then who do I need to talk to n I wouldn’t no how to get in touch with the “sperm donor”! Any answers would be very helpful. Thanks!!!

    1. I think you, and particularly your boyfriend, are asking for trouble if he simply signs the birth certificate without thinking through the full ramifications of what he is doing. Spend the $200 or so that it would take to buy an hour’s time with a good family lawyer in your new state (because that’s the law that will govern now that it’s the state where the child lives).

      The far safer course would be to go through Child Services in your new state, prove BioDad is the daddy, and then allow him to sign over his parental rights. At that point you and your boyfriend can have a conversation about whether he wants to become your child’s father, with all that this entails. For example, once he does that, he will be required to pay child support for another man’s child – for years – if you and he break up.

  41. Question- My childs father has never been a father. He’s never seen her or bought anything for her at all. We have come to an agreement that he should terminate his rights. Also note that this is not a stable man. He’s in and out of jail all of the time and is a persistent meth user. Will the judge let him terminate his rights for this because I’m not married or have a spouse to adopt her. Also, could a family member adopt her in his place?

    1. Hi Squash. I would be surprised if a judge would allow Dad to terminate his parental rights without another daddy ready to step into that role. Most would allow a male relative to step in and be daddy if they are willing. They need to remember, of course, that they are required to pay you child support.

  42. My son’s biological father is serving life with out parole. He had been gone about 4 years. I have been married for 5. We split and filled child support when the child was 1. We recently filled for termination of his right, with step parent adoption. We live in Al. The farther is in FL. We were given a court date for two months from now. I’m curious what the actual process is. If the judge agrees it is in the child’s best interest, will it all be done that day?

    I guess I should add none of his family help, we obviously have not received any child support in the past 4 yrs. My son and I have only seen good paternal grandparents once since.

  43. Hello, I have a daughter that turned 6 today. Her father that signed his rights when she was born was incarcerated in April 2013 for murder/manslaughter. Can I get him to give up rights somehow? My present husband has been providing to no end for my daughter for the last four years. I would like to change her last name and have my husband adopt her, just if anything is to happen to me, she will be with him. Any info on how to go about this will help, thank you.

    1. If bioDad has made no effort to communicate with the child since he was incarcerated, and if your husband is ready, able, and willing to step into the role of your daughter’s daddy, my guess is that you could have bioDad’s parental rights terminated as part of an adoption proceeding. The way to get it started would be to find a good lawyer in your area who is experienced in step-parent adoptions.

  44. I have 3 children . First child is 12 second is 10 and the third is 7 . None of them have had any contact with their father due to his constant abuse of alcohol . I was advised 3 years ago by social services to cease all contact . He has a violent temper and can not go any length of time without any alcohol consumption . Where do I stand on his legal parental rights as their father ? I am currently on the domestic abuse system at medium risk from him

    1. Lisa, I assume Dad is providing no support. If he is, you have few options short of his agreeing to terminate his own parental rights.

      You’ll need to refer to your state’s statute for the treatment of Dad’s lack of contact. The fear I have is that your keeping Dad from contacting the children – no matter how good your reasons may be for doing so – may toll your state’s schedule for how long you must show Dad has had no contact and no support with the children.

      And of course none of this will do much good unless you can show there’s a new daddy ready, willing, and able to step into Dad’s shoes.

  45. I need help on where to start. I have a 10 year old child that has not seen nor heard from his biological father in 8 years. His child support comes and goes. I’ve looked it up and he is somewhat behind around $10,000.00. I don’t want my child raised around his lifestyle and he has made no effort to contact my child. I am a single mom concentrating on my child and I am not going out or dating. I’m working 2 jobs now just to make it above water. My question or one of them is if I take him back to court for back child support, will he have rights to the visitation? He also wrote me a letter stating he wanted to give up his rights as a father for exchange of me signing a vehicle to him. Please help me. I am able to support my child but since he stopped I’m struggling but have everything back in order so if the child support stops we will make it, but since he stopped I’ve had to work things around. Thank you

  46. My daughter will be a year in September her father is homeless and never pay child support and does not contact us he has been abusive to me when I was pregnant how can I terminate his parental rights his

    1. Hi Stacy. After BioDad has had no contact and provided no support for two years, and if you have a new daddy ready and willing to step up to be the legal father (including willingness to pay child support), you’ll be ready to talk to a good adoption lawyer about terminating BioDad’s rights and substituting the new father.

  47. when my son was 2 his dad n I separated. he moved to another state. my husband and I got together when my son was 2 1/2. he is now 9 years old. he had seen him maybe 2 times til 2012, when he got found guilty of murder. so now he is in prison doing life without plus 15 yrs. can i get his rights terminated and my husband adopt him?

    1. It will come down to two years or so with no contact and no support from BioDad. If you have that, then you and your husband can talk to a good adoption lawyer where you live now.

      1. Thank u. I am proud to say my son was adopted by my husband few months ago. The step parent adoption went better than I expected. The bio father never responded to the papers served and the judge was great. (I appreciated him not being loud about the details of his sentencing etc. My son has deep scars and gets upset easily.

  48. Mr. Borden, I have a son that is almost 3 months old and the father to him hasn’t seen him since, when I was pregnant me and my son’s father were together but he was never there for me during the pregnancy so we split up, then he started to call me awful names and threatened to get custody of my son when I gave birth to him and he told me to not put him on child support. I have evidence that proves that he would be unfit and I am wanting to terminate his rights because of certain reasons, and he just recently filed for child support so I had to do the whole filing thing and birth certificate thing but since he will be doing a blood sample would he be able to go to court and try to get custody of my son or get paternal rights even though he said to not put him on child support and because he was never there for me and my son during the pregnancy and such. I am freaking out because my son is full time breastfed and I don’t want to lose him to someone who was mentally and emotionally abusive to me during my pregnancy.

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