Termination of parental rights in Michigan: What you should know
Divorce is one of the most difficult challenges a family can endure. It carries with it a host of trying emotional, physical, and financial burdens and often causes irreparable rifts in families that can last a lifetime. One of the most terrifying aspects of divorce is the potential of losing your child; a fear that instills panic and frustration. While this is an unfortunate and sad conclusion in some divorce cases, parents can prepare for it through awareness of termination of parental rights in Michigan.
Termination of parental rights occurs in two possible ways: involuntary and voluntary. The former of course involves no choice in the matter; rights are revoked. The latter can happen when one or both of the parents can no longer or are unwilling to provide care for their child, or other cases when adoption is the likely next step.
Simply stated, involuntary termination of parental rights is a permanent order and once a parent has lost the right, Michigan law states the parent cannot regain that right. That means the parent no longer has a right to have contact with or maintain a relationship with their child without permission from the court.
If the court proves that child abuse has taken or is taking place and a reasonable likelihood exists that a child could be further harmed if returned to that parent, rights will be revoked. Michigan views the following as some of the events constituting child abuse:
- Child abandonment
- Severe physical abuse
- Criminal sexual conduct
- Murder or attempted murder
- Sexual abuse
- Life-threatening injury
These are all crimes so the loss of parental rights might also be followed with criminal charges.
A family court will address petitions to remove parental rights through a trial that must find a child is in danger in light of supporting evidence proven by a prosecutor. The best interest of the child also plays a role and if the court determines as such, the child will move to state custody.
Voluntary termination of rights often occurs in adoption situations when the parents no longer wish or are unable to raise a child. Termination can be completed by mutual consent or by contest if, for example, step-parent wishes to adopt the child. In addition, if one of the parents has not physically seen the child for two years and has not maintained financial support, that parent’s rights can be contested in court. Keep in mind that not being granted custody of your child in a divorce or avoiding child support is not the same as the termination of rights.
Michigan courts will not immediately lean toward parental rights termination and nearly always elect to offer the parents an opportunity to resolve the issue that led to this point. However, once the court makes a decision to terminate parental rights, that decision is permanent.
With such an important family element at stake, parents should take great care and consult with a knowledgeable attorney.
For more information about parental rights in Michigan, contact The Gucciardo Law Firm today at (248) 723-5190.
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