In our blog we will try to provide you with general information regarding family law, as well as updates in important cases and statutes dealing with family law in New Hampshire. This is not to be construed as legal advice. Every case is unique and small facts can make a difference.
Termination of Parental Rights in New Hampshire
The termination of parental rights is a difficult time in any parent’s life. Sometimes it is necessary to terminate a parent’s rights against their wishes while other times a parent decides to terminate his or her rights. In cases where there is abuse or other cause to do so, the courts have a process in place. Involuntary termination of parental rights is governed by RSA 170-C. The probate courts and family divisions have jurisdiction over parental rights actions. If you are a parent involved in a situation that involves parental rights you’ll want to speak to an experienced New Hampshire attorney as soon as possible.
The first step towards termination of parental rights is to file a termination petition. Your attorney will be able to prepare the petition if you desire. A termination petition can be filed by either parent, by the child’s legal guardian, or by the child’s foster parent if the child has resided with the foster parent for a period of 24 months prior to the filing. Additionally, an authorized agency may also petition for parental rights termination. An authorized agency is typically the Division of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF). The petition must be filed in accordance with the latest laws in the jurisdiction. There are a limited number of conditions that may be the reason for termination of parental rights.
Circumstances for Termination
In order to file a successful termination of parental rights petition certain circumstances must be met. There are currently six conditions under which a termination may be granted. You must qualify for one of these conditions in order to file a petition. The conditions include:
· Parents have abandoned the child
· Parents have continuously and substantially neglected the child with the necessary care (mental, physical, and emotional).
· Parents have failed to correct conditions found in violation of the Child Protection Act.
· Parent is mentally incapable of caring for the child
· Parent knowingly or willingly caused (or allowed to be caused) severe physical, sexual, emotional, or mental abuse of the child.
· Parent was convicted of the crime of murder, attempted murder, or manslaughter of a child, parent, or sibling of the child.
A parent may willingly give up his or her parental rights but it must be done in court and the result is permanent. If you are a parent seeking to terminate your parental rights you should speak to an attorney before making any decisions. This will offer you the opportunity to learn any consequences for terminating your rights, which can have long-lasting effects.
Best Interest of the Children
The courts will always attempt to consider what is in the best interest of the child when making any decision regarding termination of parental rights. Termination of parental rights is a request that courts take very seriously. When one parent is unable, either physically or mentally, to care for a child for an extended period of time, the court may determine that they should no longer have parental rights. A child must be kept safe and protected at all times so the courts will always seek to do what is best for the child.
The court may assign a guardian ad-litem to the children. The guardian is for purposes of court actions only. The guardian is responsible to ensure that what is done is decided in the best interest of the children. The guardian provides a voice for the children in court and does not side with either parent. Guardians are most often appointed when the children are young – under the age of 12.
Providing For Termination of Parental Rights
In most cases, the constitutional rights of the parents allow them to care for their children and keep their families together. Only under special circumstances will parental rights be terminated. Termination of parental rights, for the most part, should be considered permanent. In some cases, the custodial parent requires the termination of the other parent’s rights so they can make important decisions on behalf of the child.
Other times, a parent may voluntarily choose to terminate his or her parental rights on his own accord. This may happen for a number of reasons. If you want to have the other parent’s parental rights terminated you must be able to prove that at least one of the conditions are met. An experienced New Hampshire family attorney will be able to review your situation and assist you in filing a petition for termination of parental rights. Once a petitionis filed, the court will provide a hearing date and notification will be sent to both parties.
Complexity of Termination of Parental Rights
A termination of parental rights case can become rather complex. For this reason, it is advisable to seek professional legal help from a qualified New Hampshire family attorney. There are often many circumstances and situations that need to be sorted out and resolved in order to come to terms with parental right issues. The court will not indiscriminately terminate a parent’s rights – it must be in the best interest of the child to do so. Because these situations can be very emotionally charged, it may be helpful to seek mediation. A mediator assists couples in resolving difficult disagreements.
Choosing an Attorney for Termination of Parental Rights
The decision to seek termination of parental rights can be a difficult one. Often, the parent has been absent from the child’s life and therefore should not be allowed to have rights over the child. However, remember that unless one of the conditions are met, you will not be able to proceed with a termination. A skilled New Hampshire family attorney has experience working with these types of cases and understands the current laws regarding parenting. Your attorney will be happy to meet with you to review the situation and advise you as to the options available to you. The lawyer will be available to answer your questions and represent you throughout the case.
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