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What are the requirements to terminate parental rights?


At least once a month I receive a phone call from a parent who is interested in terminating the parental rights of the other parent for various reasons including but not limited to (other parent is in jail, never pays support, never visits the child or visits the child sporadically). The court will only terminate parental rights under very limited circumstances, James J. et al. Vs. Christopher M. Sets forth the typical fact pattern of a situation were the parent seeking to terminate parental rights did not meet that threshold standard and also had to pay the attorney’s fees of the other party for having to hire an attorney to protect his rights to his child.

In In re James J. et al., the Fourth District affirmed on substantial evidence a trial court's denial of Wife's petition to free her three children from Husband's custody and control so that her new husband could adopt them. The trial court held that it was not in the children’s best interests to be freed and returned the matter to family court under the existing child support and custody order from the dissolution case. The court held that Husband's payment of child support, however sporadic, and his regular communication with the children and requests to visit with them until Wife refused to communicate further with him indicated that he did not intend to abandon them. It also held that the court did not act in excess of its jurisdiction when it made a temporary exit visitation order and also properly ordered Wife to pay Husband's legal fees after finding that they filed the petition "solely to delay Christopher's visitation with his children." (James J. et al. vs. Christopher M.)

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