The termination of parental rights legally ends the relationship between parent and child when the Court finds one or both parents to be unfit, or when either parent voluntarily relinquishes rights to the child so that the child may be adopted by another family.
Once that relationship has been terminated, the relationship is severed completely. The parent is freed from all rights and responsibilities toward to the child, and the child is free to move on from the parent — with one exception: the child still maintains the right to inherit from the parent; only a Final Order of Adoption may terminate a child’s right of inheritance.
In the State of South Carolina, the Family Court has the authority to order the termination of parental rights if it serves the best interests of the child, and if the court finds any of the following grounds for terminating the parent-child relationship:
- The child has been harmed, and the current home cannot be made safe within the next twelve (12) months
- The presumptive legal father is not the biological father of the child, and the welfare of the child can best be served by termination of the parental rights of the presumptive legal father
- The child (a) has been removed from the parent and taken into emergency protective custody, (b) has been out of the home for six (6) months following the adoption of a placement plan, and (c) the parent has not fixed the conditions for which the child was originally removed.
- The child has lived outside of the home for a period of six (6) months and, during that period, the parent willfully failed to visit the child.
- The child has lived outside of the home for a period of six (6) months, and either parent has failed to support the child.
- The child has been in foster care under the responsibility of the state for fifteen (15) of the last twenty-two (22) months.
- The parent has a diagnosable condition–such as alcoholism–that is unlikely to change within a reasonable time, and the condition makes the parent unlikely to provide minimally acceptable care for the child.
- The parent has willfully abandoned or surrendered physical possession of the child without making adequate arrangements for the child’s needs and care.
- The child has been physically abused, and the parent pleaded guilty to at least a part of the abuse.
As the termination of parental rights, given the consequences, is not something that the Court takes lightly, for the relationship between parent and child to be severed, the Court requires clear and convincing evidence that one of the factors above has been satisfied. Further, the Court may appoint a Guardian ad Litem to represent the best interests of the child.
Termination of parental rights is serious business. For most parents, there is little as important or ominous as the prospect of the end of the relationship between them and their child. Here at The LaMantia Law Firm, we have been on both sides of this issue — contact us today for a free initial consultation. We understand, and we are here to help.