Termination of Parental Rights
The termination of parental rights is a serious, relatively permanent matter, and Jackson child custody lawyer M. Devin Whitt believes that it should be recognized as such. The interest of parents in the care, custody and control of their children is perhaps the oldest of constitutional rights recognized by the United States Supreme Court. Some of the legal rights of a parent regarding his or her child include the right to control and the right to receive notice of certain legal proceedings regarding the child. However, in Mississippi, these parental rights may be forfeited voluntarily through a written release executed by the parent, or the relationship of the parent and child may be terminated involuntarily if certain factors are present as indicated in Section 93-15-103 of the Mississippi Code Annotated.
The presence of at least one of the following factors can be sufficient grounds for the termination of a parent’s rights:
- Desertion or abandonment of the child by the parent;
- Contact not having been made with the child for a significant period of time (at least six months for a child younger than three years old or at least one year for a child three years old or older);
- Evidence of multiple abusive events for which the parent is responsible concerning at least one child;
- If a licensed child care agency or the Department of Human Resources has had custody of the child for at least twelve months, the agency has made significant efforts to create and employ a plan which would allow the child to return to the custody of his or her parent, and the parent has not pursued visitation with the child although options were made available or the parent has agreed to a plan for return of the child to him or her but has not implemented the plan;
- Exhibition of ongoing behavior by the parent which would not allow for the return of the child to the parent (such as a drug or alcohol addiction, mental illness, or physical incapacitation);
- Extreme hatred expressed by the child regarding the parent, or some extensive deterioration of the parent-child relationship due to the parent’s neglect, abuse, absence, failure to contact, or imprisonment;
- Conviction of the parent of certain criminal offenses against a child or children; or
- Abuse or neglect of the child as recognized by a court, the child has been removed from the parent’s custody for placement elsewhere, and a court has determined that allowing the parent to reunite with the child would not be in the best interest of the child.
As described in Section 93-15-107 of the Mississippi Code Annotated, in a proceeding to terminate parental rights, the parent(s) whose rights are sought to be terminated are considered defendants. A person known as a guardian ad litem will be appointed to represent the best interests of the child by essentially acting as an investigator into the lives of the parties involved in the proceedings in search of the truth. The guardian ad litem will present a report to the presiding chancellor or judge of his or her findings and recommendations. After hearing and analyzing all the evidence, the presiding chancellor or judge will decide whether to terminate the parental rights of the defendant(s) based on the presence or absence of the factors discussed above. Importantly, the law clearly states that termination of the parental rights of one parent may be made without affecting the parental rights of the other parent if the evidence and circumstances point in that direction.
As an experienced child custody lawyer in Jackson, I will fervently protect your interests and offer expert legal advice, including a plan of action to accomplish your desired results. I have the expertise and passion needed to guide you through your family crisis. Should you need professional representation in a case involving termination of parental rights, please contact my firm , The Law Offices of M. Devin Whitt, PLLC, at 601-607-5055 and set up a free consultation with a Jackson child custody attorney.