When is enough enough? When and how to terminate parental rights – Part 1
The fact scenarios vary from the mildly negligent to the down right stomach-twisting abuse situations where a child has been physically or sexually abused by a parent. On an increasingly frequent basis I have had clients ask the question: When is enough enough? My goal in writing this entry is to explore Utah’s statutes and case law regarding the prickliest of questions – when should a parent’s rights be terminated?
For the time being, we are going to sidestep DCFS (Division of Child and Family Services) cases when the state steps in and removes children from parents . These cases certainly take up a large chunk of juvenile courts caseloads and are fodder for many appellate court decisions, but for today we are going to only touch on these cases and leave a more lengthy discussion for another day.
What we are talking about in today’s blog are cases of parent versus parent, and two of the most common arguments for termination of parental rights under Utah law: abandonment and “token efforts”.
In order to terminate parental rights a court (termination proceedings are often filed in juvenile court but may be filed in district court in certain circumstances) has to determine two things.
First, you have to show that you have met the statutory requirements for one of the reasons for termination. Section 78A-6-507 of the Utah Code provides nine reasons for termination. Of those listed, abandonment and token efforts are two of the mostly commonly used in cases filed by one parent against the other.
Second, the Court has to conclude that termination is in the “best interest” of the child. For those in the know, this is the standard for many legal questions involving children and can take into account the “physical, mental, or emotional condition and needs of the child”.
Simple enough, right? Not so fast…hold tight the road is about to get a bit more bumpy.