Losing Parental Rights
Just because someone fathers or gives birth to a child does not always mean that person is a fit parent for that child. In cases where abuse and neglect occurs, one parent may bring a motion to terminate the other parent’s parental rights (or a state agency may do so). Bringing a motion does not always mean success, but it is nonetheless a mistake to not take such an action seriously. Understanding your rights and responsibilities can make a difference in knowing what to say in response, to a motion or action to terminate parental rights.
Best Interest Of The Child Is Paramount
There is a difference between relinquishing your parental rights voluntarily and having them terminated. You may not relinquish your rights except for in very specific situations – for example, if a child is going to be adopted, both parents may voluntarily relinquish their rights so that the adoptive parents may assume them. Termination is an involuntary loss of parental rights and is only done if it can be conclusively shown that it would be in the best interests of the child to do so. A request to do this is taken extremely seriously – the Nevada Supreme Court has called termination “tantamount to a civil death penalty.” Unless the evidence is very clear, a petition to terminate will usually be declined.
That said, when a court does consider terminating a parent’s rights, it is because the best interests of the child seem to demand it. Nevada law holds that the specific actions of a parent be reviewed for purposes of considering if termination is in a child’s best interest. In other words, if a parent has done or not done specific things, it may be evidence for or against termination. Examples include abandonment or neglect of the child, risk of serious injury or abuse, and not making more than a “token effort” to support a child. Incarceration alone has been held not to be abandonment.
Often cases involving the termination of parental rights can result in visits from the Department of Family Services (DFS), and in some cases, removal from the home. At the end of a set period a hearing will be held to evaluate whether or not the child should be returned or whether parental rights should be terminated. If the court decides that termination is likely to be in the best interests of the child, the case will proceed to trial.
In Nevada if a child has stayed outside the home for 14 of the last 20 months, their best interests “must be presumed to be served by the termination of parental rights.” The rationale is that neglect or disinterest in the child is a ground on which Nevada recognizes parental fault, and being in the home for only 6 of 20 months creates at least a prima facie case of neglect.
Protect Yourself & Your Family
The specter of the termination of your parental rights can be terrifying, and it is not something you should have to face alone. You need a lawyer who will fight for you. The attorneys at the Kainen Law Group will work toward the outcome that is truly in the best interests of the child. Contact us today to set up an initial appointment.