How Can Parental Rights Be Terminated in New Jersey?
Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) is a controversial and painful issue for many families.
Parental rights encompass the education, religion, and medical choices made for their children. Parents have the right to decide with whom their children will associate and what activities they will participate in. In New Jersey, there are conditions under which parental rights can be terminated, such as when children are endangered either by their parents or the environment they live in. A child’s right to be free from harm is above a parent’s rights.
The Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) is the state agency responsible for investigating each case reported to them to protect potentially endangered children. They will remove the child from home until the parents make the necessary changes. If the parents do not comply, they may be forced to forfeit custody, and their parental rights may be terminated. Having an experienced family lawyer is important when going through this process.
Terminating Parental Rights in New Jersey
Parental rights will not be terminated over small matters. This isn’t a question of one phone call or one complaint. After conducting a thorough investigation, DCP&P will only request termination of parental rights by the court when they have collected several clear and convincing pieces of evidence. The complexities of terminating parental rights are compounded not only by the emotions of all involved, but also by the constant overlapping of causes that justify the child’s removal. In other words, there is rarely one reason for someone’s parental rights to be terminated.
Providing an Unsafe Environment
When a parent will not or cannot provide a safe home, despite having been offered solutions by DCP&P and given adequate guidance and resources, parental rights could be terminated. In other words, DCP&P does not want to remove the child, but if the parents refuse to make the necessary corrections, little choice is available. For example, if a home with parents and three children ages 3,6, and 10, is overrun with fleas, flies, and roaches, the house is messy and full of garbage, and the children are not attending school. Obviously, there is a severe problem. The children will be removed and placed either with a relative or in foster care while the parents are given time to clean the house and register the two older children for school. This is just the beginning, of course, as everyone will be placed in therapy, albeit briefly, and the situation will be reassessed frequently. If the parents refuse to make any changes, their parental rights could be terminated. Once that occurs, their rights will not be reinstated.
Outright Abuse in Passaic County, NJ
Of course, a child subjected to abandonment or abuse will be removed from the home. Interviews with specialists, teachers, neighbors, or any others who can offer witness to the abuse or the emotional and psychological distress of the child will be presented as evidence to terminate parental rights possibly. In this same vein, parents who are severely physically or psychologically impaired to the extent that they can no longer take care of their children may face termination of their rights. Also, parents who knowledgeably permit their child to be abused by others sexually, physically, or emotionally will find their parental rights in serious jeopardy. For example, a 13-year-old child tells their mother that an adult cousin who is contributing economically to the household has been touching them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. The mother chooses to stay silent to avoid any ugliness, and when a school counselor calls the abuse hotline, the ball gets rolling. The mother has an obligation to provide a safe environment for her child, and if she isn’t willing to remove the cousin from her home, her parental rights could be terminated.
Refusal to Improve Conditions
When discussing conditions, it isn’t just about the physical environment, which carries great importance, but it is the relationship between the parents and the child that is essential as well. It is not enough to meet with DCP&P to discuss parenting classes, therapy, and a family plan. While they are great ideas, they must be put into practice. The parent must demonstrate efforts to follow the stipulations set by DCP&P and the court. Failure to do so could result in having your parental rights terminated.
What Happens When A Parent Voluntarily Terminates Their Parental Rights?
It is never easy for parents to surrender their parental rights, and the court will require counseling and a hearing before accepting the relinquishment of parents’ rights. The court will go over the petition submitted by the parents and carefully consider if terminating parental rights is in the child’s best interests. When the parents put a child up for adoption, their parental rights are also removed.
In this situation, the child is probably already in a resource home (foster care), and if the resource parents offer to adopt the child, the court will most likely allow it. However, there are other options available. For one, Kinship Legal Guardianship (KLG) is an alternative to the complete separation of parents and children. It is similar to adoption because the guardian takes on care, education, medical treatment, and other aspects of the child’s health and well-being. The legal guardian is someone the parents have chosen: a family member, close friend, or relative. The parents can petition the court, object to the adoption, and may be able to resume their role as the child’s parents. Obviously, for this to occur, the parents would have to comply with all of the requirements from DCP&P to provide a safe environment for the child. KLG is an excellent alternative when there is evidence that the child may be returned to the parents at some point.
Identified Surrender is the final legal alternative to termination. Here, the parents can choose the family that will adopt their child. The difference from KLG is the parents are requesting a complete severing of their parental rights. If they so choose, the adoptive parents can completely stop all communication between them and their biological parents. They can legally prohibit any contact.
Contact our Passaic County Termination of Parental Rights Lawyers Today
This is not something you want to go through without legal counsel. The stakes are simply too high. A family lawyer can explain your parental rights and your options to protect them and your child. The process is complicated, and specific procedures must be followed. You need to take action and stay one step ahead to obtain the best possible result.
The Montanari Law Group has years of experience dealing with parental rights cases in Totowa, Newark, Haledon, South Orange, Clifton, Wayne, Woodland Park, Hawthorne, and towns in Northern New Jersey. We know that keeping your children under your care or getting your parental rights reinstated is your primary motivation. We have the resources you need to feel understood and confident through this process.