Termination of Parental Rights

Termination of parental rights means the complete legal severance of the parent-child relationship, ending all authority, responsibilities, lines of inheritance and rights between the parent and child.

Termination is an extraordinary legal action which is taken only when the welfare of the child demands it: either to protect the child from unpreventable maltreatment or inevitable neglect in the child's own parental environment or to make it possible for the child to become a part of a new family when both biological parents are unwilling or unable to raise the child.

Obtaining Termination

Obtaining termination is deliberately difficult. The statutes are constructed to assist parents to raise their own children and to discourage the legal creation of orphans and rootless children through statutory manipulation by parents who simply do not want to shoulder their responsibilities. The rights of this type of parent can be terminated if there is a new family to replace the entire biological one, or in the case of a non-custodial parent, if there is a legally recognized step-parent who has petitioned the court to replace that parent MCL 710.51(6).

Termination may only occur through judicial action and only according to the particular statutory grounds of either the child protection provisions of the Juvenile Code (MCL 712A.1 et sequitur) or the Adoption Code (MCL 710.21 et sequitur).

Termination: The Juvenile Code - Child Protective Proceedings

The purpose of termination in Protective proceedings is to free the child from a relationship with an unsafe, unfit or disappeared parent. Adoption by another family is the anticipated and usual next step for a child whose parents' rights have been terminated but adoption is not the reason for termination under this code.

  • A petition alleging abuse and/or neglect as defined by MCL 712A.2(b) and the Child Protection Act MCL 722.622(e) and (f) of a child found in this County, must be submitted to and authorized by the Juvenile Division.
  • Any person may submit such a petition
  • If authorized (accepted for legal action), the Petition must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence (by admission, no contest, bench or jury trial) for the court to have jurisdiction of a child. Jurisdiction is a prerequisite to termination; termination does not occur when the court takes jurisdiction.
  • Termination may be requested on the initial petition or in a later petition however, the following requirements apply to both petitions.
    1. The court must authorize the petition
    2. Only the DHS (Department of Human Services), local prosecuting attorney,
      child, guardian, custodian, or foster parent (in certain very restricted circumstances)
      may submit a petition seeking termination. MCL 712A.19b(1)
    3. The petitioner must allege and prove, by clear and convincing evidence, one
      or more of the legal grounds for termination included in MCL 712A.19b(3) and,
    4. The parent must not be able to prove that termination is not in the best interests
      of the child.
    5. There is no right to have a jury decide the issue of termination.
    6. When this "involuntary" termination seems imminent, parent(s) will sometimes voluntarily "release" a child to the Department of Human Services for the purpose of adoption. Such
      releases cannot occur unless allowed by the judge presiding in the child protective proceeding.
  • A child's natural parent cannot adopt the child if that parent's parental rights are intact.

Appeal

Within 21 days after an order of termination in an adoption proceeding, a parent has a right to rehearing and an appeal of termination of parental rights on a voluntary or involuntary termination.

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