In 1923, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Meyer v. Nebraska that each parent has the right to “establish a home and bring up children.” The state, however, has the right to intervene and protect children when the facts and circumstances call for it. The U.S. Supreme Court, in 1984, ruled in Schall v. Martin that “if parental control falters, the State must play its part as parens patriae”––that means the state can exercise its power to act as guardian for children who can't care for themselves. Terminating parental rights is part of this power.
The termination of parental rights is serious. We, at Heritage Law Office, take it very seriously, too. You can't afford to lose your rights. But also, if you are the parent seeking termination of the other parent's rights, you can't afford to lose if it's in the best interest of your child. Contact us today through our online form or at 414-253-8500 to schedule a free consultation.
What Is the Termination of Parental Rights?
The termination of parental rights results in the complete separation of the child and parent. The parent cannot make decisions about or for the child.
How Are Parental Rights Terminated in Minnesota?
Termination can be voluntary or involuntary. If voluntary, the parent submits a form to the relevant court providing the reason for the termination. Voluntary does not mean that you can just give up your rights. On the contrary, you usually cannot unless someone else filed a petition to terminate your rights or someone else wants to adopt the child.
If involuntary, the process is more complex and contentious. Often, it begins with a report of abuse or neglect by a state agency, which is often the response to a complaint by the other parent or another person about abuse or neglect. The state agency conducts an investigation and makes a decision about what to do.
During the judicial proceeding, the state must satisfy a substantial burden of proof. In 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Santosky v. Kramer that the state must show child neglect by “clear and convincing” evidence. This burden is less than the criminal burden of “beyond a reasonable doubt” but more than the civil burden requiring proof “by a preponderance of the evidence.” Upon clear and convincing evidence, the Court can terminate parental rights.
Once severed, the termination is usually permanent. In some rare cases, reinstatement of parental rights may be possible.
Common Reasons a Parental Rights are Terminated in Minnesota
The reasons for termination are outlined in state statutes. That said, common grounds for the termination of parental rights include:
- Unfit parent
- Serious risk of physical, emotional, or mental injury of the child
- Sexual assault
The parent can also lose parental rights when a state agency has given them the opportunity to rehabilitate or change their ways but the parent only shows minimal effort to support the child or completely fails to adjust and correct their behavior within a reasonable time.
What Are the Consequences of Termination of Parental Rights?
The consequences of parental rights termination are many and include but are not limited to:
- The loss of the parent-child relationship
- The loss of the ability to raise the child–loss of child custody
- No right to visit or speak to the child–loss of visitation rights
- No right to deny adoption of the child
If the parent whose rights are terminated had been court ordered to pay child support, the parent will no longer be obligated to do so.
Contact a Family Law Lawyer in Minnesota Today
The laws on the termination of parental rights are complex. Regardless of whether you are the parent who wants to terminate the other parent's rights or you are the parent whose rights may be terminated, seek legal help. The matter is too important to make a mistake, and it's not just your rights on the line, but that of the child's. Our family law lawyer will advocate for your rights or, alternatively, help file a petition to terminate the other parent's rights. Contact Heritage Law Office through our online form or call us at 414-253-8500 to schedule a free consultation.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What Does "Termination of Parental Rights" Mean Legally?
Termination of parental rights refers to the legal process where a court permanently severs the legal relationship between a parent and a child. This extreme measure is generally considered a last resort and is used when it is deemed that maintaining the relationship would be detrimental to the child's well-being. After termination, the parent loses all rights and responsibilities concerning the child, including physical and legal custody.
2. What Are the Grounds for Terminating Parental Rights in Minnesota?
In Minnesota, grounds for terminating parental rights can vary but commonly include abandonment, neglect, and being an unfit parent. A parent can also lose rights if they pose a serious risk of physical, emotional, or mental harm to the child. The state statutes outline these grounds in detail, and the court requires substantial evidence to proceed with termination.
3. How Does the State of Minnesota Prove the Need for Termination?
To terminate parental rights in Minnesota, the state needs to meet a "clear and convincing" standard of evidence. This standard falls between the criminal burden of "beyond a reasonable doubt" and the civil burden of "preponderance of the evidence." This level of evidence is sufficient to persuade the court that a claim is highly probable.
4. Is Termination of Parental Rights Reversible?
Generally, once a court in Minnesota has terminated parental rights, the decision is permanent. However, in rare cases, it might be possible to reinstate these rights. Reinstatement usually requires a drastic change in circumstances and substantial proof that reinstating the parental rights is in the child's best interest.
5. What Happens to Child Support After Termination of Parental Rights?
After the termination of parental rights, any obligation to pay court-ordered child support typically ceases. However, this doesn't absolve the parent from any past due payments or arrears. It's essential to consult legal advice to understand all the financial implications involved in the termination process.