Termination & Adoption- Warwick RI
Termination of Parental Rights and Adoption
In Rhode Island, a parent may terminate the parental rights of the other parent under very specific circumstances. Usually a termination case is started by DCYF and it is widely believed that only DCYF may start these cases, but that’s not true. It can be done by a parent.
In most cases, when parents cannot co-parent, one or both will seek sole custody of the child or children. Getting an order for sole custody is often the only option available to a parent, but in sole custody cases the other parent remains entitled to visitation and remains obligated to pay child support. Sometimes, that is the best that the parent with placement can do.
But if something happens to you and your child’s other parent is absent from their life the absent parent will have complete rights to the child even if he/she has not seen or supported the child in years. Even if there are custody, placement and/or visitation orders in place while you are alive, they do not prevent the absent parent from taking the child after you are gone. You can’t even change that by leaving instructions in your will. But, a termination and adoption can change that and an experienced Divorce Lawyer can help you.
If The Absent Parent Fails to Support or Visit Their Child...
If the absent parent fails to visit or support their child, the parent with placement may petition the court to terminate the absent parent’s parental rights, if a new spouse or one of the child’s grandparents will adopt the child in the terminated parent’s place.
For example, a mother may terminate the parental rights of an absent father if:
- Her new husband, or one of the child’s grandparents, will adopt the child;
- The child is living with the parent AND the new husband or grandparent at the time the petition is filed.
These criteria are a necessary part of the adoption requirement and adoption is a necessary part of the termination. A parent can’t do a termination without an adoption. DCYF can do it without an adoption, but a parent can’t. If the absent parent objects to the termination, there will be a hearing to determine whether the termination is lawful and appropriate.
What You Need to Prove to Terminate
In order to terminate the absent parent’s rights you need to prove 1 of the following 3 things.
- That the absent parent hasn’t supported the child for a period of 1 year where financial able to do so;
- That the absent parent has not had communication or contact with the child for at least six months; or,
- That the parent is unfit even if present in the child’s life.
The first 2 things are pretty easy to prove and are the basis for most of the termination and adoptions that I do. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of parents who have little or nothing to do with their children and those parents tend to not even object to the termination and adoption.
Lack of fitness is harder to prove as it is not as clear cut as the other two standards and so judges find it more difficult to apply. However, there are plenty of cases where the lack of fitness of a parent is obvious and judges will terminate the parental rights of that parent in those cases.
In addition, a Family Court home study is conducted to determine if the adoptive parent is fit and to make a recommendation to the Family Court.
Grandparent Termination and Adoption
Stepparent termination and adoptions are for more common than grandparent termination and adoptions, but they are authorized by the same statute and apply the same to grandparents as they do to stepparents.
Attorney Carl P. DeLuca, Warwick divorce lawyer, pioneered the grandparent termination and adoption in the early 2000’s. The case of “In Re: Abby D,” was decided in his client’s favor in 2005 after the terminated parent appealed to the Rhode Island Supreme Court. In that case, the Rhode Island Supreme Court said, “… it has no tolerance for a parent “who makes halfhearted or no attempts to visit or contact his or her child within the six-month statutory time period * * *.”
To summarize, in order for a parent to terminate the parental rights of the the other parent,
- Their new spouse, or one of the child’s grandparents, must be willing to adopt the child;
- The child is living with the parent AND the new husband or grandparent at the time the petition is filed; and, 1 of the following is true:
- The absent parent hasn’t supported the child for a period of 1 year where financial able to do so; or,
- The absent parent has not had communication or contact with the child for at least six months; or,
- The parent is proven unfit even if present in the child’s life.
For more information regarding how you can successfully petition for a Termination and Adoption, contact us right away!