Parental rights can refer to the right of a parent to child visitation, as well as the right to make legal, social, or financial decisions for a child. The Office of Family and Children in Indiana might file a petition to terminate parental rights if it deems this would be in the best interests of the child.
Terminating parental rights in Indiana is a legal process that requires fulfilling a specific burden of proof. Our experienced family law attorneys can help you learn what your parental rights are and assist you with moving forward during this difficult time.
How to terminate one’s parental rights in Indiana
Terminating one’s parental rights means to receive a court order that permanently removes a parent’s parental responsibilities. Termination of parental rights means the parent in question will no longer have any rights to child custody, visitation, or decision-making on the child’s behalf. The parent will also lose any legal recourse he or she may have against the other parent in terms of child custody or support.
In the eyes of the law, the parent will lose any and all parental rights. After termination, the parent will also not have a duty to financially support the child. This will not, however, erase a parent’s existing past-due child support debt.
Reason for terminating parental rights
There are several reasons for the termination of a parent’s rights in Indiana. Some of the situations in which termination has been allowed include:
- Conviction, incarceration, or a pattern of criminal activity.
- Mental illness or disability that makes it difficult to provide parental skills.
- Alcohol or substance abuse problems.
- Failure to cooperate with court-ordered service providers or visit the child.
- Failure to obtain and keep safe, stable housing.
- Inability to meet a child’s special needs
- Severe or chronic abuse or neglect
- Sexual abuse
- Abuse or neglect of other children in the household
- Involuntary termination of the rights of the parent to another child
Why Would Someone Want to Terminate Parental Rights?
The most common reason for termination of parental rights course of action in Indiana is if the county Office of Family and Children files an order after a failed effort to reunite the parent and the child in a child in need of services (CHINS) case.
If reunion efforts do not work out, the Office of Family and Children may seek to terminate the parent’s legal rights if it is within the child’s best interests to do so.
To achieve termination of parental rights in Indiana, the claimant has to meet certain evidentiary standards. It is important to note that a parent cannot file for termination of the other parent’s parental rights. As discussed in other articles, this prohibition does NOT prohibit a stepparent from filing to terminate a parent’s parental rights.
Grounds for Terminating Parental Rights in Indiana
Indiana Code 31-35-3.5-7 states the two grounds by which a court will terminate the parent-child relationship. They are by clear and convincing evidence that the allegations described in the initial petition are true, and that the termination of parental rights is in the best interests of the child. In Indiana, the only court with the right to terminate the parental relationship is one with juvenile or probate jurisdiction.
The parents involved in the case may either agree to the termination of their rights or else the court may order mandatory termination without the parents’ consent.
To achieve court approval of a petition for the termination of parental rights, the claimant must prove that the parent and child have been separated for at least six months under a court order. The claimant must also show that the court has found it unnecessary to expend reasonable effort to reunification.
Finally, the child has been under the supervision of the Office of Family and Children for at least fifteen out of the last 22 months. In a CHINS case, the Office of Family and Children must also show that the termination is in the child’s best interests, that it has a plan for the proper care and treatment of the child, and that the parents will likely not fix the existing issues.
Rights of a parent in termination proceedings
A parent has certain rights during a termination case. The parents can hire an attorney or use a court-appointed lawyer to argue against the termination of parental rights, with evidence that it is not in the child’s best interests or wishes. If the case involves a parent with a serious criminal conviction, the Office of Family and Children will have a lighter burden of proof. It is more difficult for a parent to win these cases.
If you’re in need of legal counsel regarding yours or your partner’s parental rights, contact us by email, or phone at The Lockwood Legal Group, LLC to speak to our team of compassionate family law attorneys.