Termination of Parental Rights
Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) is the highest level of state intrusion into the parent-child relationship. A TPR is the complete severance of that relationship. For that reason the legal requirements, under statutes and case law, are strict. The state must prove the TPR by “clear and convincing evidence,” which is a standard higher than a preponderance (used in neglect, OTC and most civil proceedings) but below the criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.
TPR’s can occur in either Probate Court or Superior Court. If the TPR is initiated by DCF (and most are), it will proceed in Superior Court. A parent facing a TPR has the right to a trial. A parent may also consent to his or her termination, which may be part of an open adoption agreement with the prospective adoptive parents.
Upon termination a parent loses his or her rights to and responsibilities for the following
- custody, guardianship or control of the child or youth
- to care for the child or youth or make any decisions on behalf of the child or youth
- to obtain the child’s birth certificate
- any state or federal benefits the parent received for the child or youth
- legal responsibility to support the child or youth and to pay for the child’s or youth’s maintenance, medical and other expenses
A termination must be entered by a court upon certain required findings to be effective. Termination of parental rights is required before a child can be adopted.
In a few limited circumstances can a TPR be initiated without a prior adjudication and commitment. While most cases do not go that far, TPR becomes a possibility, even if remote, as soon as a petition is filed. It is important to beware of that possibility and be diligent to avoid a case from going to that level.
To discuss a TPR or any juvenile case, please use the contact form on the side of the page to reach me.