Maybe you have conceived a child and you can’t or don’t wish to accept responsibility for his/her care or upbringing after the birth. Maybe your significant other is abusive toward your child, or is addicted to drugs or alcohol and you fear for their safety. What happens if the parent has neglected the child’s needs or has abandoned them? What steps can I take to ensure the wellbeing of my child?
Whether you are a biological or adoptive parent, the state of Utah bestows upon you an automatic right, as well as obligation, to take care of and protect your children responsibly. If you don’t wish to accept that responsibility, or due to age, health, or financial conditions can’t properly care for a child, you may ask the court for a voluntary termination of your parental rights. In addition, if one or both parents fail to provide this required care, a court action can be filed to request that the court terminate the parent’s parental rights.
Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental Rights
If a parent decides that they want to give up their rights to be a parent to their child, they must file a Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental Rights form and serve it upon the other parent, legal guardian, or custodian of the child. A hearing will be scheduled no sooner than 10 days after all interested parties are notified. At the hearing, the judge will ask questions and review evidence to determine if you are giving up your rights freely and knowingly, and will also determine if it will be in the best interests of the child for you to relinquish these rights. You must understand that this request is not automatically granted. The judge will determine if your intent is to get out of supporting the child, or if there is any other improper reason for your decision. Remember, the judge cares only for the child’s best interests first and foremost.
Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights
In cases where it may be in the child’s best interests to terminate parental rights of a parent without their consent, certain legal grounds and evidence must be presented to the court. Either the other parent or other concerned individual may file for this involuntary termination. Some of the main legitimate grounds that the judge will consider are as follows:
- Abuse or neglect
- Abandonment or disinterest
- Sexual abuse
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Conviction of a felony
- Murder/manslaughter of a sibling
- Felony assault of a sibling or child
- Failure of reasonable efforts
- Inability to provide support to child
If you are considering your options to protect your child’s interests, contact the experienced family law attorneys at Spencer & Jensen, LLC at 801-566-1884 to help.