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Many parties inquire as to whether they can terminate the other parent’s rights on the basis of abandonment. The answer is not a simple yes or no. Pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511, there are nine (9) grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights. Two of the grounds are as follows: (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.

(2) The 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.

The party seeking termination must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the parent’s actions meet at least one of the grounds for termination as listed in the statute. After inquiry into the parents, the court shall also consider if there is an emotional bond between the parent and child and potential consequence of severing that bond. Keep in mind that termination of a biological parent’s rights and adoption often go hand in hand. A party cannot adopt without termination of the biological parent’s rights. A biological parent cannot voluntarily terminate their rights or sign a child away without another party stepping in to adopt. Similarly, a biological parent cannot have the other parent’s rights involuntarily terminated without another party stepping in to adopt.

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. Termination of parental rights can generally only occur in conjunction with an adoption matter or involvement by a local social services agency. Pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511, there are nine (9) grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights. Several of the grounds available relate to crimes committed by the parents. For example, rights may be terminated if the parent(s) have committed child abuse or neglect. This can result in a criminal charge of endangering the welfare of a child.

Rights may also be terminated in connection with rape. Specifically, whether the parent is the father of a child conceived as a result of a rape or incest. Either parent can lose their rights if convicted of any of the following offenses in which the victim was a child of the parent: criminal homicide, aggravated assault, a comparable crime in a different jurisdiction, or any attempt/conspiracy to commit the above. The party seeking termination must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the parent’s actions meet at least one of the grounds for termination as listed in the statute.

Each county is responsible for keeping a list of qualified counselors who are available to assist natural parents contemplating voluntary relinquishment or facing involuntary termination of their parental rights. Prior to an adoption taking place, the rights of the natural parent(s) must be terminated. This is a permanent act and accordingly, the courts ensure that the natural parents understand and have a chance to discuss with a qualified professional. A portion of the filing fees paid to the court for adoption/termination proceedings go towards supporting that county’s counseling fund which subsidizes the costs for counseling where the natural parent(s) desire to participate but are unable to afford it.

The court should inquire as to whether the natural parent(s) had an opportunity to utilize counseling services if they appear at the termination hearing. If the natural(s) have not received any counseling, the court can postpone a decision on termination to allow the natural parent(s) an opportunity to seek counseling. If the natural parents are not present, the court at least expects proof of valid notice of the proceedings on the parents. The required notice does make it clear that they have a right to appear at the hearing and if they fail to do so their rights can be terminated by the court. The notice also apprises natural parents of their right to seek an attorney and strongly advises that they do so.

Termination of a biological parent’s rights and adoption often go hand in hand. A prospective parent cannot adopt without termination of the biological parent’s rights. A biological parent cannot voluntarily terminate their rights or sign a child away without another party stepping in to adopt. The parental rights of a biological parent can be involuntarily terminated in connection with an adoption matter as well. Pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511, there are nine (9) grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights.

If the natural parent(s) agree to the adoption they can execute the required consent to adoption and waiver of their rights. A petition to confirm their consent can be filed with the court to finalize the voluntary termination of their parental rights. The natural parents should appear at the hearing to offer testimony regarding their consent. If the natural parents are not present, the parties who served as witnesses at the time the consent was executed may be called to testify as well as any notary that notarized the document. If the natural parent(s) do not agree or are unable to be located, the prospective parents can seek involuntary termination of their rights. At the hearing, the prospective parents must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the parent’s actions meet at least one of the grounds for termination as listed in the statute. After the hearing, the court may enter a decree terminating parental rights at which point no further notice needs to be given to the biological parents about the adoption. The prospective parent(s) would still need to appear at subsequent hearing to finalize the adoption.

Prior to an adoption taken place, the rights of the natural parent(s) must be terminated. This may occur via consent, voluntary relinquishment or involuntary termination. Regardless of the method of termination, each county is responsible for keeping a list of qualified counselors who are available to assist natural parents contemplating voluntary relinquishment or facing termination of parental rights. There is a filing fee due for each adoption petition that is filed. The amount of the filing fee varies by county. A portion of the filing fee goes to support the county counseling fund which subsidizes the costs for counseling where the natural parent(s) desire to participate but are unable to afford it.

If the natural parent(s) appear at the termination hearing the court must ask the natural parent(s) if counseling services were utilized prior to any decree terminating their rights. If the natural(s) have not received any counseling, the court may briefly postpone a decision on the termination to allow the natural parent(s) an opportunity to seek counseling. The Center for Adoption Support and Education is a national leader in counseling services including counseling for natural parents whose children have been adopted or placed in foster care. For additional information visit https://adoptionsupport.org/.

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.

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. On the flip side, it also means they are not financially responsible for their prior child in terms of support. Termination of parental rights can generally only occur in conjunction with an adoption matter. Termination of parental rights can be voluntary or involuntary. A biological parent can consent to an adoption and voluntarily relinquish their rights. Alternatively, parental rights may be subject to involuntary termination. Pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511, there are nine (9) grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights.

(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.

(2) The 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.

(3) The parent is the presumptive but not the natural father of the child.

(4) The child is in the custody of an agency, having been found under such circumstances that the identity or whereabouts of the parent is unknown and cannot be ascertained by diligent search and the parent does not claim the child within three months after the child is found.

(5) The child has been removed from the care of the parent by the court or under a voluntary agreement with an agency for a period of at least six months, the conditions which led to the removal or placement of the child continue to exist, the parent cannot or will not remedy those conditions within a reasonable period of time, the services or assistance reasonably available to the parent are not likely to remedy the conditions which led to the removal or placement of the child within a reasonable period of time and termination of the parental rights would best serve the needs and welfare of the child.

(6) In the case of a newborn child, the parent knows or has reason to know of the child’s birth, does not reside with the child, has not married the child’s other parent, has failed for a period of four months immediately preceding the filing of the petition to make reasonable efforts to maintain substantial and continuing contact with the child and has failed during the same four‑month period to provide substantial financial support for the child.

(7) The parent is the father of a child conceived as a result of a rape or incest.

(8) The child has been removed from the care of the parent by the court or under a voluntary agreement with an agency, 12 months or more have elapsed from the date of removal or placement, the conditions which led to the removal or placement of the child continue to exist and termination of parental rights would best serve the needs and welfare of the child.

(9) The parent has been convicted of one of the following in which the victim was a child of the parent: criminal homicide, aggravated assault, a comparable crime in a different jurisdiction, or any attempt/conspiracy to commit the above.

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Prior to an adoption taking place, the rights of the natural parent(s) must be terminated. This may occur via consent, voluntary relinquishment or involuntary termination. Pursuant to 23 Pa C.S. 2505, each county is responsible for keeping a list of qualified counselors who are available to assist natural parents contemplating voluntary relinquishment or facing termination of parental rights. The court must inquire of the natural parent(s) if counseling services were utilized prior to any decree terminating their rights. If the natural(s) have not received any counseling, the court may briefly postpone a decision on the termination to allow the natural parent(s) an opportunity to seek counseling.

When an adoption is filed, a portion of the filing fee goes to support the county counseling fund which exists to pay for counseling where the natural parent(s) desire to participate but are unable to afford it. Presently, the counseling fee is $75 and is filed with the Report of Intent to Adopt. The Bucks County Orphans’ Court Division is hosting two informational sessions regarding the counseling program available. The first is on July 29, 2014 at 9:30 a.m. at the Lowers Bucks Chamber of Commerce in Fairless Hills, PA. The second event is being held on July 31, 2014 at 9:30 a.m. at the Central Bucks ambulance & Rescue Unit in Doylestown, PA. For additional information or to R.S.V.P., please contact (215) 348-6260.