Terminating parental rights in Pennsylvania

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It doesn’t matter if you are a Vanderbilt or just another middle-class American, deciding who gets custody of a child is one of the messiest parts of any breakup. It is even more difficult when the custody rights of one parent or both parents need to be terminated. If you believe your ex-partner should lose their custody rights or if you are interested in relinquishing your own rights, there are a few things you should know about the law in Pennsylvania.

Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights

Voluntarily giving up your rights to see or take custody of your child is not easy. When you give up your parental rights, you normally give up your visitation rights as well. You may not be able to see your son or daughter again until they are an adult. You will not get to make decisions about their upbringing and they will not inherit your property when you die unless you specifically include them in your will.  The state does not want to leave any child without a parent, so they normally require certain steps to be taken when you relinquish your parental rights.

There are two methods of giving up parental rights in The Keystone State. The first is the voluntary relinquishment of parental rights for adoption.  In this case, both parents relinquish their rights to an adoption agency or couple who want to adopt their baby. The biological parents are required to fill out a consent form. 35 to 40 days after they have submitted their consent they will be required to attend a hearing.

The alternative procedure for relinquishment takes place when a parent signs a Consent to Adopt form. A woman must wait 72 hours before signing such a consent form, but there is no such waiting period for a man. There will be a thirty-day waiting period before an adoption agency will submit a “Petition to Confirm Consent to Adoption.” After the petition is submitted, the adoption agency will be required to attend a hearing. The biological parents do not have to be present at the hearing.

Involuntary Termination of Child Custody

When a parent who is considered unfit refuses to give up their parental rights voluntarily, a petition is normally filed to take their rights away from them. The Department of Human Services usually files the petition after all options to rehabilitate the parent have been exhausted. There are some basic grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights.

Generally speaking, a parent must have failed to perform their parental duties for at least six months prior to the termination petition being filed. If a child has been removed from a home and put in to foster care due to abuse or neglect, the parent is expected to make a concerted effort to change their behavior. If they do not they may lose custody. The parent must also have demonstrated neglect for a child’s welfare and ignored their need for parental care.

If the whereabouts of the parents are unknown for a long period of time or if a person is not the biological parent of a child, their custody may be terminated. If a child was conceived as a result of rape or incest, the father’s rights will be terminated.

A parent’s rights may also be terminated if the have committed homicide or another felony. If a parent is incarcerated for some lesser offense, they may be able to retain their parental rights in some cases.

If you are facing child custody issues of any kind, it is very important to hire a trained attorney. The family law experts at Chester County Family Law can help you with your divorce and child custody concerns.

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