Terminating the Parental Rights of an Unfit Parent in Georgia
When a mother or father has their parental rights terminated, they are no longer acknowledged as their child’s legal parent and, therefore, no longer have any rights or responsibilities over the child. But how does the parental rights termination process work in Georgia – and in what situations would it be necessary? Learn what constitutes an unfit parent in Georgia and how parental rights termination works in these situations, and see how an attorney can help.
What Is an Unfit Parent in Georgia?
In legal terms, an unfit parent is someone who fails to provide proper guidance, care, and support to a child. This can happen in a variety of ways, such as through neglect or child abuse. In some cases, a parent’s mental illness or substance abuse problem could also be considered as defining factors of parental inability or misconduct.
Neglect can occur when a parent is oblivious to the child’s needs for personal reasons and does not properly care for the child, leaving the child hungry and unclean or allowing the child to skip school and engage in delinquent behavior (in the case of teenagers). Child abuse occurs when a parent’s behavior endangers the physical or emotional well-being of the child. Finally, mental illness can result in a parent being deemed temporarily unfit when their condition hinders them from adequately caring for the child. Likewise, children living with parents who struggle with addiction may be neglected or have their well-being endangered by the parents’ behavior.
Can Someone Voluntarily Give Up Their Parental Rights in Georgia?
In Georgia, a parent’s rights to their child can be terminated voluntarily or involuntarily. When a parent wishes to give up their parental rights to a child, it means they will no longer be legally obligated to provide any type of support to the child and will also lose their rights to physical or legal custody as well as the ability to make critical decisions on behalf of the child.
Voluntary terminations usually occur when a child is being given up for adoption, and the child’s biological parents are giving up their parental rights to the adoptive parents. Outside of that, there may be situations when a father wishes to give up their parental rights because they do not want the legal and financial responsibility of raising the child. In Georgia, courts give preference to having both parents share the responsibility of raising a child, so voluntary parental rights termination petitions are approached carefully and may only be granted if it is determined that doing so would be in the best interests of the child.
When Can the Court Terminate the Parental Rights of an Unfit Parent?
In certain situations, a court may take action to terminate an individual’s parental rights following Ga. Code § 19-7-4. This law defines the legal criteria for the loss of parental rights.
Involuntary termination of parental rights may be necessary when a court finds that (1) the parent abandoned the child; (2) the parent willfully failed to follow a child support order for more than 12 months; (3) the parent has been convicted with the murder of the other parent, or (4) the court has determined that the parent has engaged in parental misconduct or is otherwise deemed unable to care for the child.
In some cases, divorcing parents may disagree with each other’s parenting styles, leading one of the parents to consider finding ways to terminate the other parent’s rights to their child. However, the courts take the termination of parental rights very seriously, and those seeking to have someone’s rights terminated should be prepared to show significant evidence that the other parent has committed parental misconduct or otherwise fits the legal criteria for termination of rights. In other words, a father seeking to terminate their rights to escape having to pay child support or spouses who are divorcing and simply want to find a way to get “revenge” on their ex-spouse by having them deemed unfit may find that the court may not grant their petitions.
When Should I Speak to a Parental Rights Attorney?
Termination of parental rights is a complex and often sensitive topic for many. Georgia courts have very strict criteria and require sufficient evidence before stripping someone of their parental rights, which may only happen if the courts ultimately decide that it would be in the child’s best interests. If you have reasons to believe that seeking the termination of the parental rights of your child’s other parent, speaking to an experienced attorney should be your first step.
An attorney can help you understand the applicable laws that may affect you and help you determine if you have a solid case. If so, your attorney can help you gather the necessary evidence to prove that the other parent is unable to provide for the child’s needs adequately and that it would be in the best interests of the child to have that parent stripped of their parental rights.
The legal team at Lunn Law, LLC, has assisted countless families in Georgia with a variety of parental rights issues and family law matters. Our attorneys can help you navigate even the most complex cases, always focusing on finding a positive outcome for you and your family. If you would like to discuss your case or need answers to family law questions, contact our firm by calling 770-762-4628.