The rights and responsibilities of parents are extremely important. They are also very much linked together. In other words, if you fail to adhere to your responsibilities and obligations as a mom or dad, such as paying child support, providing necessary care, or regularly communicating with your child, your rights may be taken away. The impact of parental rights being taken away or “terminated” means that there is no longer a legal relationship between the parent and child. Without a legal relationship, more often than not, the biological parent is cut out of the child’s life entirely.
In Arkansas, there are two main routes by which parental rights can be terminated. Adoption and Department of Human Services (DHS) dependency-neglect cases.
In an adoption case, such as a stepparent adopting their stepchild, both biological parents are required to consent to the adoption in order for it to go through.
However, Arkansas law will bypass requiring consent from a parent that has “failed significantly without justifiable cause” to communicate with or support their child for a period of one year. Two things you should note about that statutory language.
First, it doesn’t matter if the year long period where one parent “failed significantly” occurred right before the adoption hearing (i.e., a failing parent can’t save himself by sending a lot of gifts and making a lot of phone calls after he figures out his ex is trying to have her new boyfriend or husband adopt the child).
Second, “failed significantly” doesn’t mean if you call, send a birthday card, or make a child support payment once per year, that your consent is required for the adoption. In fact, you probably need to be doing a heck of a lot more than that.
When an adoption case is filed, the non-custodial parent is given the opportunity to consent and relinquish their own parental rights. Many of these parents either know it is in their child’s best interest to be adopted by someone else or no longer want the pressure of continuing to be picked up on body attachments for past due child support.
Termination in DHS dependency-neglect cases is something that occurs after a child has been taken into foster care. Typically, parents whose children are taken into foster care are given a year to fix their circumstances and prove that they can be good parents, so that the State will return their children to the home. However, Arkansas law allows DHS or the children’s attorney (a.k.a., the attorney ad litem) to file to terminate rights at any time if they think it is necessary.
If you are a parent confronted with a DHS Petition to Terminate your parental rights, a mother or father that wants your spouse to adopt your child, or a non-custodial parent facing the possibility of someone else adopting your child away from you, it is important to have a good family law attorney familiar with the particulars of parental rights termination on your side. At WH Law | We Help, our lawyers have fought and won on both sides of private adoptions and DHS dependency-neglect cases.