Termination of parental rights means the natural parent of a child forever loses or forfeits any rights as a parent. This would include the loss of any standing for future custody actions. It also means they are not financially responsible for child support any longer. Termination of parental rights can generally only occur in conjunction with an adoption matter. The petition for termination of parental rights and a petition for adoption would be filed simultaneously.
Termination of parental rights can be voluntary or involuntary. A voluntary termination is when a biological parent signs a consent to an adoption and voluntarily relinquish their rights. There is a thirty (30) day period after the consent is signed wherein the natural parent can change their mind and revoke their consent.
Parental rights can also be involuntarily terminated. Pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511, there are nine (9) grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights. Many petitions for involuntary termination are on the first ground listed: (1) The parent by conduct continuing for a period of at least six months immediately preceding the filing of the petition either has evidenced a settled purpose of relinquishing parental claim to a child or has refused or failed to perform parental duties. Similar to the first ground, the second ground calls for termination based on “[t]he repeated and continued incapacity, abuse, neglect or refusal of the parent has caused the child to be without essential parental care, control or subsistence necessary for his physical or mental well‑being and the conditions and causes of the incapacity, abuse, neglect or refusal cannot or will not be remedied by the parent.” If Children and Youth have removed a child from the home, they may pursue involuntary termination after six months if the issues that led to the child being removed from the home have not changed and it is unlikely the conditions would improve within a reasonable time frame. A parent’s rights can also be involuntarily terminated based on certain criminal convictions including criminal homicide, aggravated assault, a comparable crime in a different jurisdiction, or any attempt/conspiracy to commit the above.