paper family broken apart

Grounds for Terminating Parental Rights


Unfortunately, many cases exist where a parent has abandoned, abused, failed to support, neglected, or have voluntarily cut off a relationship with their child. When this happens, the child’s other parent, grandparent, or even someone else may want to adopt the child.

However, before they can do this, the biological parent must formally terminate their parental rights. If they do not agree to do so, the court can make this decision. When this happens, the court will look at specific grounds to make this choice.

Read on to learn what the court looks at when deciding to end parental rights.

What Happens When Parental Rights Are Terminated?

If the court determines the parent’s rights are to be terminated, the parent will no longer be able to seek custody or visitation. Additionally, the parent will no longer be required to pay child support.

Only certain people can file a case for termination of parental rights. The people who can do so include:

  • The child’s parent against the other parent

  • The child’s guardian

  • The child’s presumptive adoptive parent

  • A social services agency

  • A person with whom the child has resided with for two consecutive years or more

  • A child’s stepparent

Once a petition has been filed to terminate a parent’s rights, the court will determine whether it will be in the best interest of the child by looking at specific factors.

How North Carolina Courts Determine Whether to Terminate Parental Rights

Under North Carolina law, the court can terminate a parent’s rights if they find that grounds for termination exist and that termination is in the child’s best interests. To make this decision, there are specific grounds they look at.

According to N.C.G.S. 7B-1111, grounds for parental termination are:

  • The parent has abused or neglected the child

  • The parent willfully left the child in foster care or placement outside of the family home for more than 12 months without making a reasonable effort to correct the situation that led to the child being removed (this does not include parents who cannot care for the child because of poverty)

  • The child was placed in the care of social services, child-placing agency, foster care, or a child-caring institution, and the parent has for a continuous period of six months immediately preceding the filing of the petition has failed to pay a reasonable portion of the cost of care of the child

  • The noncustodial parent has failed to pay child support for more than one year, without any justification or reasoning

  • The father of the child that was born out of wedlock has not tried to legitimize the child

  • The parent is incapable of providing proper care and supervision of the child and will reasonably not be able to do so in the foreseeable future

  • The parent has willfully abandoned the juvenile for at least six consecutive months immediately preceding the filing of the petition or motion, or the parent has voluntarily abandoned an infant for at least 60 consecutive days prior to the filing of termination of rights

The primary factor the court thinks about when terminating parental rights is how it will affect the child. If doing so will be in the child’s best interest, then the court will grant termination. However, sometimes the court will find that it is better for the child to be with their parent. These grounds help them make this determination.

If you have decided to file a petition to terminate parental rights, consider reaching out to our Winston-Salem child custody lawyers. The team at Payne & Associates, PLLC understands the complexities of cases involving the termination of parental rights. With our experience, you can rest easy knowing our team is here to help you through the process.

Call the attorneys at Payne & Associates, PLLC today at (336) 585-8454 to evaluate your case.

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