If CPS has terminated my parental rights can I still have contact with my child? Who decides?
Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “If the state decides to terminate my parental rights does this mean that I will never be allowed to see or speak to my kids. Who makes this decision?”
Although state laws differ, in general, if the state decides to terminate your parental rights this means that you are not legally your child’s parent. With this decision also comes the loss of other rights: the right to talk and visit with your child and the right to decide how your child will be reared. You will also lose the right to determine who should adopt your child.
Now, there could be some exceptions to the above. For example, if your parental rights are terminated but there is a relative or close friend that is able to adopt your child, you may be able to develop some type of agreement with the adoptive parents to remain in contact with your child (assuming you were not deemed a harmful threat to your child).
Additionally, if the child has not been adopted but remains in the foster care system, you may also be able to petition the court to have contact with your child. Again, this agreement would only be allowed if the court approved.
When can my parental rights be terminated?
The last thing the state wants is to be in charge of your child. If Child Protective Services is notified that you are an unfit parent or your child is in physical danger they will work with you to improve the situation. They recognize, in most cases, children are better cared for when they remain with their parents.
With that said, however, there are legal reasons the state has for terminating the parent/child relationship. Here again, these reasons may vary slightly by state, but they generally include the following:
- Abandonment- which means you have failed to have contact or show regard for your child for at least six months
- Neglect- you have failed to provide needed items for your child, including education, food, clothing, and shelter
- Failing to provide financial support- you have failed to follow the child support order for an extended period of time
- Unfit parent- you have failed to provide sufficient mental, physical, and emotional support for your child
- Egregious harm- you have a history of physically harming your children when they are in your care
- Failure to work with CPS- your children have been removed from your care by CPS and you have failed to address the issues. CPS will work with you for several months, but if you do not fix the issues they may permanently remove your child
- Absent birth fathers – fathers who fail to claim paternity, are not involved with the child, do not support the child, and do not register as the child’s father can have their rights terminated
- Children in foster care – if your children are in foster care and you do nothing to address the issues for removal you may have your rights terminated
- Serious criminal convictions- felons who have committed serious crimes against a child or their own children may have their parental rights terminated
What can I do to keep my parental rights from being terminated?
Assuming your parental rights have not been terminated, you may have time to act. For example, if Child Protective Services has removed your children from your care you will need to speak with your caseworker and lawyer to determine what you need to do to get your children returned to you.
If the petition to terminate your parental rights has been filed, you should discuss you case with your lawyer. There may still be time to fight the termination with the help of your lawyer and to prove that you are willing to do whatever it takes to get your children back home.
Finally, if the termination is final, you may be able to ask for your children to be permanently placed with a friend or family member. Not only will this ensure the safety of your child, but as I mentioned above, this may also allow you to continue to have some type of contact with your children.
If CPS has removed your children from your home you could lose parental rights if you cannot prove that you are willing to make the changes necessary to ensure your children’s safety. If your parental rights are terminated and your children are not placed with someone you know, you also may lose the right to contact them in the future.
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