Understanding the Process of Terminating Parental Rights
How long before one can file to terminate the parental rights of a parent who has had zero contact and visitation with a child? I’m Tulsa attorney James Wirth, that is a question that we have received. Under Oklahoma law, when can a parent’s rights be terminated?
Here we have mom who has a child, dad has not had any contact for an extended period of time, mom wants to terminate the parental rights of dad, wants to know how much time has to have gone by. Well, it’s not that simple. If we’re talking about termination of parental rights, it is a two phase, there’s two parts to that. I mean, the general we’re talking about here is best interest of the child. Always has to do when we’re talking about custody visitation, those things, it’s about the best interest of the child.
When Can Parental Rights Be Terminated?
The court is generally not gonna find it to be the best interest of the child to terminate a parent’s rights unless somebody else is stepping into those shoes, or if the child is in a deprived child action seeking permanency. So if DHS takes the kids away, they go to state custody, and they file for immediate termination, or they’re doing an ISP that’s not moving fast enough, in that instance, the state of Oklahoma or the attorney for the child can file to terminate parental rights. But I’m assuming that’s not the case here. Doesn’t sound like that’s the case here.
So outside of that scenario, in order to terminate dad’s rights, you really need to have somebody else stepping into those rights. That means we’re talking about a step-parent adoption. So if mom is married and husband wants to adopt, then at that point you can look at seeing if you can meet the standards for dad’s parental rights to be terminated, and then adoption to go through to establish them for a stepdad to make him the legal parent from that point.
How Long Does There Have to Be No Contact?
So under those circumstances, how long does there have to be no contact? So like I said, two parts here. So the first part is that you would have to establish, or you’d have to demonstrate 12 consecutive months out of the last 14 months where dad has either failed to establish or failed to maintain a significant relationship with the child. So if you can say 12 consecutive months out of the last 14 months, then you meet that factor and then go on to the next factor.
The next factor is that in the best interest of the child for the parental rights to be terminated or for an adoption to go through. Now if you don’t have a lack of contact, there’s one other way you can get there. If dad has failed to pay child support pursuant to his ability or pursuant to a court order for 12 consecutive months out of the last 14 months prior to filing the petition with the court requesting this, then that can also get your first phase done and then you go on to the second phase, meaning demonstrating that it’s in the best interest of the child.
Get the Answers You Need
Hopefully that answers your question. If you are trying to terminate dad’s parental rights without somebody coming to step in, the court is generally gonna look at it and say, you know what, it’s better for the child to have a dad that is not there than to have no dad at all. So usually we’re looking at a step-parent adoption when these circumstances come up.
If you are dealing with this and have some questions, you’re probably gonna want some information beyond what’s in this video. You’re gonna want some information based on your specific circumstances. So to do that, contact my office. We can maybe get an appointment scheduled for you. To get that going, you can go online to makelaweasy.com.