When an individual’s parental rights are terminated, he or she is no longer financially obligated to his or her child. In addition, the parent no longer has rights to see the child or to make any decisions regarding the child’s medical care, religious instruction, care, or any other aspect concerning the child’s life.
In the state of Colorado, the termination of parental rights may happen in different ways. Sometimes, parents choose to terminate their parental rights voluntarily because they feel it is in the best interests of the child. In other cases, one’s parental rights are terminated involuntarily—particularly when it is in the best interests of the child because a parent is found to be unfit.
Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights
Also known as relinquishment, the voluntary termination of parental rights is possible, but difficult. This is because children have the legal right to a parental relationship, and have the right to receive financial support and care from both of his or her parents. Parents, however, must meet a certain set of conditions set by state law. The consent of both parents is also required.
Parents who desire to relinquish their parental rights must first undergo counseling for themselves and, if the court deems appropriate, the child to be relinquished. There are various other requirements needed for the relinquishment procedure, all deliberately designed to ensure that the parent relinquishing rights are aware of the weightiness finality of his or her decision.
The court may choose to deny such a request if it feels that there is undue duress, fraud, influence, or pressure from a third party, or if it feels that a parent does not fully understand the consequences involved. A parent must also go to court for a hearing before parental rights can be terminated. The only exception to this rule is when the relinquishment involves a child below one year of age, as there are laws that allow for a quicker process if the other natural parent cannot be found or does not object.
In most cases, relinquishment is only done during adoption, when the biological parent opts to give up his or her rights and give them to the legal adoptive parents.
Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights
If the court feels that it is in the best interests of the child, they may decide to take away parental rights. By doing this, the individual is no longer considered to be a child’s legal parent.
To order a termination of parental rights, the court must find clear and convincing evidence of any of the following:
- The child has been abandoned by his or her parent
- The parent is deemed unfit due to mental illness, emotional illness, or mental deficiency rendering him or her unlikely to care for the child’s physical, emotional, and mental needs in a timely manner
- A pattern of abuse, sexual abuse, torture, or extreme cruelty to the child, the child’s sibling, or another child of either parent
- The child’s serious bodily injury or disfigurement stemming from a single incident
- A sibling’s serious bodily injury or death stemming from proven parental neglect or abuse
- The parent’s long-term imprisonment for such a period that he or she is ineligible for parole for at least 36 months from the date the child below six years of age is adjudicated neglected or dependent
- The parent’s long-term imprisonment for such a period that he or she is ineligible for parole for at least 6 years from the date the child above six years of age is adjudicated neglected or dependent
- The parent has been unable to attend visitations with the child as indicated in the treatment plan, unless there is good reason for his absence
- The parent displays the same issues addressed in the treatment plan without acceptable improvement
- The parent is unfit, and his or her condition or conduct is unlikely to change within a reasonable amount of time.
Unlike the voluntary termination of parental rights, neither parent’s consent is needed to involuntarily terminate parental rights.
Reinstatement of Parental Rights
Following the termination of parental rights, Colorado is among the few states that allow for the reinstatement of these rights. This may be an option if permanent placement has not been found for the child within a certain amount of time, or if the court decides that the parent is currently able to provide the child with a safe home. A petition for reinstatement may be filed by the child’s guardian ad litem or the county social services department.
Terminating parental rights is a major decision, and it is crucial to first understand what this means for both the parent and child involved. For more information, consult with an experienced family law attorney.