How Families Dissolve: North Carolina Termination of Parental Rights

One of the great tragedies of North Carolina family law practice is that some families simply cannot live together in harmony. When a parent has become a danger to the children in a household, it is essential that actions begin to terminate parental rights.

Termination of parental rights in North Carolina can happen for several reasons. It is generally an acknowledgment that this person has failed in his or her role as a parent in one or more critical ways. The common actions—or inactions—that can lead the state to revoke parental rights include:

  • Child abuse
  • Child neglect
  • Abandonment of a child into the care of another—or into the foster care system—for an extended period
  • Mental or physical incapacity to provide for the child’s needs, by reason of substance abuse, mental retardation, mental illness, or organic brain syndrome.
  • Becoming a danger to the child or to other people in the household by committing one or more specific felony offenses.
  • Failure to promote the child’s welfare.
  • Failure to pay child support for over a year.
  • Failure of a father to provide for or to acknowledge an out-of-wedlock child.
  • Termination of parental rights to another child, plus the parents’ inability to establish a safe home.

How parental rights are terminated in North Carolina

When it becomes evident that a parent cannot fulfill a positive role in a minor child’s life, the legal procedure for terminating parental rights can begin. The first step is filing a petition with the court in the county where the child lives.

North Carolina law places strict limits on who may begin the action to end the rights of parenthood. The following people are permitted to begin the procedure:

  • A parent. This would be a suit by one parent to terminate the rights of the other parent.
  • A court-appointed guardian. If the child’s interests are at stake in legal proceedings, a judge may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the minor child. This legal representative can begin an action to end the role of a bad parent in the relationship.
  • The county Department of Social Services. The DSS—or a similar child placement agency that has physical or legal custody of a minor—can petition to end the parental relationship with one or both parents. This can make a child available for adoption. Under state law, a suit to terminate parental rights must be filed if a child has spent 12 of the last 22 months in foster care.

If the court agrees with the petition, all bonds of responsibility between the parent and child are cut. The only exception is inheritance: a minor child can still inherit property from a deceased parent whose rights have been terminated, unless the child has been formally adopted.

Act now to save your child from harm

If you believe your child is in danger from the other parent, you need to act quickly. Contact our Wilmington parental rights law firm at 910-341-7570 or toll-free at 877-593-4233 today. We are standing by to schedule a consultation on your case and begin the legal process of securing a safer future for your child.

Delay would be too risky in this situation. Call us today.