Reasons a New Jersey Court May Terminate a Parent’s Parental Rights

Generally, extreme circumstances are necessary for a court to revoke a person’s parental rights over their child. There are only a few specific situations defined under state law that allow for this outcome, all of which require significant evidence to be presented before a court will proceed with the termination.

Being aware of the reasons a New Jersey court may terminate a parent’s rights is crucial to effectively filing or fighting against a petition of this nature. A knowledgeable and compassionate attorney could provide advice and support to either side of this contentious and emotionally fraught procedure.

Certain Criminal Convictions

As per N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15, convictions for certain criminal offenses are the most straightforward grounds for a local court to order the termination of parental rights. Specifically, any parent or custodial guardian who is convicted of criminally abusing, abandoning, neglecting, or cruelly mistreating a child may justify the loss of parental rights.

Additionally, any person found guilty of murder, manslaughter, assault, or any other action that could have caused serious bodily harm to another child, or any attempt to commit such an offense, may have their parental rights taken away.

Failure to Address Conditions that Led to Removal

Once a parent has their child taken away from them and put into the care of an authorized state agency, they have a limited amount of time to address the issues that justified the child’s removal from their household. If a parent does not address conditions like alcoholism, drug addiction, unsanitary living conditions, or dangerous parenting practices within a year of their child’s removal despite being financially and physically able to do so, even with the help of state social services, a court has the authority to permanently terminate their parental rights over that child.

Abandonment of the Child

Under certain circumstances, abandonment of a child may constitute grounds for termination of parental rights. For abandonment to warrant this extreme measure, a parent must have had no contact with the child, their foster parents or guardians, and/or the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) (formerly the Division of Department of Youth & Family Services (DYFS)) for six months or more, and DCPP does not know where the parent is and cannot locate them despite significant efforts to do so.

Protecting the Child’s Best Interests

A New Jersey court may also terminate parental rights if it finds that doing so would be in the child’s best interests. Typically, terminating parental rights on these grounds requires DCPP or the petitioning party to prove several things, including:

  • The parent in question harmed the child in the past and/or is likely to harm them in the future
  • Maintaining their parental rights would either allow the harm to the child to persist or prevent it from being addressed
  • The child does not have a permanent home, and/or the parent is unwilling to provide one for them
  • DCPP has fulfilled its obligations with regard to encouraging correction of the problems and facilitating parental visitation with the child
  • No reasonable alternative exists other than termination of parental rights

The best interest of the child is paramount in these cases. Accordingly, a court will examine these issues closely to determine a solution that serves the child’s wellbeing.

Engage a New Jersey Attorney for the Termination of Parental Rights

Even if proceedings to terminate parental rights have already been initiated, a strong case is still necessary to achieve a desired outcome. If the petitioning party cannot prove through clear and convincing evidence that one of the aforementioned grounds justifies the termination of parental rights, the court is well within its rights to reject the petition.

Assistance from qualified legal counsel is often essential to seeking a desired outcome in this type of legal procedure. To learn more about the reasons a New  Jersey court may terminate a parent’s rights, call today to schedule a consultation.

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