Termination of Parental Rights
Termination of the legal relationship between a parent and a child can happen one of three ways: First, a parent can voluntarily relinquish their parental rights. Second, if the custodial parent has re-married, they may be able to do a stepparent adoption, (see button for stepparent adoption) and, finally, the State of Colorado can bring a Dependency and Neglect action against the parent or parent’s and potentially terminate their parental rights by court order.
Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental Rights
If a parent wishes to voluntarily give up all parental rights and obligations they may do so under a certain set of conditions set out under Colorado law.
The Colorado relinquishment procedure requires that the parent who wishes to relinquish his or her parental rights must obtain counseling for him or herself and the child to be relinquished, as the Court deems appropriate.
There are a number of other requirements and affidavits that are part of the relinquishment procedure. All are all designed to assure that the person relinquishing his or her parental rights realizes the seriousness and finality of their decision. The Court has the right to deny the request for relinquishment if it is not convinced that the parent has a sufficient understanding of the consequences of their request or that there is undue coercion, fraud, duress or pressure exerted by another party.
You will have to go to court for a hearing before the Court will terminate your parental rights. The exception to this rule is in the case of relinquishment of an infant younger than one year. In that case there are laws that allow for a quicker process that can be done without going to court if the other natural parent does not object or cannot be found.
The records of relinquishment proceedings are closed except to parties of record and their attorneys.
Termination of Parental Rights by Dependency and Neglect Proceeding
In order to terminate parental rights and obligations without consent of the parent, the State of Colorado must bring a Dependency and Neglect action against the parent or parent’s and find by clear and convincing evidence that one of the following exists:
- That the child has been abandoned by the child’s parent or parent
- That the parent is unfit by reason of emotional or mental illness or mental deficiency of such a nature that they will be unable to care for the ongoing needs of the child.
- The parent is unfit due to a single incident resulting in serious bodily injury or disfigurement of the child and no appropriate treatment plan can be devised.
- The parent is in long-term confinement and not eligible for parole in six years or thirty-six months if the child is under six year of age and no appropriate treatment plan can be devised.
- There has been serious bodily injury or death of a sibling due to proven parental abuse or neglect.
- There has been an identifiable pattern of habitual abuse or sexual abuse.
- There has been torture of or extreme cruelty to the child, a sibling or another child of either parent.
The Colorado Courts do not take the involuntary termination of parental rights lightly. The law in this area is complex and the Court will require a preliminary investigation by social services, the probation department or another agency designated by the Court before they will bring a Dependency and Neglect action.
If after a full evidentiary hearing the Court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the parent has abandoned the child or that they are unfit under the law, then the Court may order the termination of the parent-child legal relationship. Child custody requires a lot of consideration before granted.
If you would like to ask one of our attorneys a question about relinquishment of parental rights or skip that step and come in for a consultation, we encourage you to do so.