Washington County Family Law Attorneys Explain Termination of Parental Rights

Helping clients deal with parental-rights termination proceedings in Washington County, Dakota County, Burnsville, Stillwater and Woodbury, MN

Parental rights can be terminated voluntarily, as is common in adoption cases, or involuntarily, for various reasons. At Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A., we are dedicated to ensuring your interests are protected, whether you are pursuing termination or defending against an involuntary termination action.

When can parental rights be terminated involuntarily?

Under Minnesota law, the responsible social services agency must ask the county attorney to immediately file a termination of parental rights petition when:

  • The child has been subjected to egregious harm
  • The child is the sibling of a child who was subjected to egregious harm
  • The child is an abandoned infant
  • The child's parent has lost parental rights to another child through an order involuntarily terminating the parent's rights
  • The parent has committed sexual abuse against the child or another child of the parent
  • The parent has committed an offense that requires registration as a sexual predator
  • Another child of the parent is the subject of an order involuntarily transferring permanent legal and physical custody of the child to a relative

Even if one or more of those criteria are met, the county attorney can forgo filing a termination petition in two circumstances. Those are situations in which the county attorney and the responsible social services agency do one of the following:

  • File a petition for transfer of permanent custody to a relative of the child
  • File a case plan documenting why filing a termination of parental rights petition would not be in the best interests of the child

A parent's rights could be terminated if they have been ordered to pay child support and they refuse to do so. An unmarried father who has not established paternity either by admitting being the child's father, or through a paternity test, and who has abandoned the child can be found to be unfit by the courts and have their parental rights terminated.

Terminating parental rights for adoption purposes

Before children are legally free to be adopted, their birth parents’ rights must be terminated. This can be done voluntarily or involuntarily. Under Minnesota law, the grounds for termination of parental rights are:

  • The parent voluntarily gives written consent to termination of his or her parental rights
  • The parent has abandoned the child
  • The parent has substantially, continuously or repeatedly refused or neglected to fulfill the duties of a parent, including failing to provide food, clothing, shelter, education and other necessary care
  • The parent has been ordered to contribute to the financial support of the child and has continuously failed to do so without good cause
  • The parent is unfit to be a parent, based on a consistent pattern of specific conduct
  • The parent has failed to correct the conditions that led to the child being placed in foster care (often a failure to participate in a drug treatment program.)
  • The child has chronically suffered egregious harm while in the parent’s care
  • The child is neglected and in foster care
  • The parent has been convicted of certain serious crimes of domestic violence

After the birth parents’ parental rights have been terminated, a child generally becomes available for adoption.

Contact our Oakdale family law firm about termination of parental rights

Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A. delivers personalized legal services for families and individuals throughout Minnesota, including in Washington County, Dakota County, Burnsville, Eagan and Woodbury, MN. Call us today at 651.760.7524 or contact us online to arrange an appointment. There is no charge for initial consultations, and flexible scheduling is available.