Termination of Parental Rights
Authored By: Atlanta Legal Aid
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Vonciel Bryant, Kinship Care Project
Atlanta Legal Aid Society
What does it mean if my rights as a parent’s rights are terminated?
Rights You Will Lose:
If the court orders a termination of your parental rights, this means that you will no longer have any rights to your child. You will not have the right to visit, contact, or have custody of your child. You will not have the authority to make decisions regarding your child, your child’s earnings, or your child’s property. Since you will no longer have custody, someone else is legally free to adopt your child. (GA ST § 15-11-284)
Responsibilities You Have & Rights Your Child Still Has After Parental Termination
- Even if your rights are terminated, you will still have the responsibility of providing financial support (child support payments) for your child’s care until the child is adopted.
- Your child can still inherit from you until they are adopted. (GA ST § 15-11-284)
Can a parent voluntarily surrender their rights?
Yes, under Georgia Law, either parent may voluntarily surrender their parental rights by petitioning the court. A parent may decide that it is in the best interests of the child to have their rights terminated so that the child can receive the care of someone else.
A parent may surrender their rights so that the spouse of the other parent can adopt the child, so that the child may be placed for adoption through a child-placing agency, so that the child may be adopted by a relative or so that the child may be adopted by a non-relative who will care for the child.
Once a parent terminates their rights to their child, they also waive the right to receive notice about any legal proceedings concerning the adoption of the child. (GA ST § 19-8-26)
What if a parent changes their mind after they have already surrendered their rights?
Parents can only revoke their voluntary surrender within FOUR days after they filed the petition. To do this, the parent must give written notice, delivered in person or mailed by registered mail or Fed-Ex/UPS (statutory overnight delivery). This written notice must be sent to the child placing agency.
Will the court ever take the parent’s rights away without their consent?
Under Georgia Law, the court may terminate parental rights when the parent’s actions have harmed or could harm the child. Situations that could cause harm include:
- The child has been abandoned by their parent
- The child has experienced “aggravated” circumstances such as long-term incarceration of the parent
- The parent failed to comply with a child support order for 1 year or longer
- The child has been deprived of adequate parental care
- There is a serious threat to the child’s mental, emotional, or physical safety
After considering these issues, the court will also determine what is in the best interests of the child based on :
- The child’s attachment, security, and familiarity with their parent.
- The child’s desire to stay with their parent
- The child’s need for stability
- The child’s physical, mental, moral or emotional well-being.
If the court decides that they have the authority to terminate the parent’s rights and that it would be in the best interests of the child to do so, then the court may legally terminate the parent’s rights without their consent. (GA ST § 15-11-310)
What is involved in the process of terminating parental rights?
- A report is made to Departments of Family and Children’s Services
- An investigation is to made as to the child’s welfare
- The DFCS attorney will argue for the termination of parental rights in a determination for dependency.
- If the court decides against terminating parental rights, they may still decide to provide certain services for the family to prevent harm from occurring in the future.
Last Review and Update: October 24, 2018