Abandonment: Terminating Parental Rights in PA

Pennsylvania requirements for who and how to terminate parental rights

When it comes to protecting a child, there is no compromising. Unfortunately, those individuals who are able to cause the most harm to a child can be those who are closest to them. In Pennsylvania, terminating parental rights can be done voluntarily or involuntarily. For cases where abandonment is evident and a party must intervene to protect the best interest of the child, terminating parental rights may be a solution.

Who is capable of terminating parental rights

Regarding a minor child, a petition terminating parental rights in Pennsylvania may be filed by:

1. A parent seeking to terminate the rights of the other parent;

2. An agency;

3. An individual who has custody or standing in loco parentis (in the place of a parent) and who has filed the report of intention to adopt pursuant to 23 Pa. C.S.A., Section 2531.

4. An attorney representing a child, or the guardian representing a child who has been adjudicated dependent.

Be sure to consult with an experienced custody lawyer to help define a current custody situation and advise on how best to proceed. A custody lawyer will best enable the filing of a petition and ensure the following requirements are addressed within the petition.

What is filed and how to terminate rights

Many are aware that abandonment can lead to/permit an involuntary termination of parental rights. But what does "abandonment" mean in the eyes of the court and how is it proven? A petition for involuntary termination of parental rights will be granted based upon nine grounds summarized below but available at length here: (23 Pa. C.S.A., Section 2511)

1. For at least six months prior to the filing of the petition, the parent has either shown purpose of relinquishing parental rights refused/failed to perform parental duties. Once the statutory basis for termination is established after six months, the court will examine:

a. The parent's explanation for the conduct;

b. Contact with the child after abandonment; and

c. How termination would effect the child.

2. Whether by incapacity, abuse or neglect, if the parent has caused the child to go without essential care necessary for the child's physical or mental well-being and those conditions will not be fixed or changed by the parent.

3. The parent against whom the petition is filed is not the natural father of the child.

4. An agency has custody of the child and the child was found in such a manner that the parents are unable to be identified; and if the the parent does not claim the child within three months of being found.

5. By court order or voluntarily, the child has been removed from the care of the parent and placed with an agency for at least six months. The conditions the child was removed from have not changed nor will be foreseeably changed by the parent, and are not likely to be improved with reasonable help to the parent, and termination of parental rights will serve the best interests of the child.

6. If the child is a newborn, the parent does not know of the child's birth, does not live with the child, is not married to the other parent, nor has made reasonable effort to maintain contact with or financially support the child for four months prior to the filing of the petition.

7. The parent against which the petition is filed fathered the child as result of a rape.

8. By voluntary agreement with an agency or the court, the child was removed from the parent's care and at least 12 months have elapsed from the date of the removal or placement, the conditions which caused removal/placement still exist and terminating parental rights would be in the best interests of the child.

9. The parent was convicted of a crime which involved the child, such as homicide, aggravated assault, etc.

In reviewing the above, the courts take in the entire picture and assess whether or not the petitioner has met the burden of proof. Simply proving or elaborating on one statutory factor may be enough.

If you or a loved one is seeking to terminate the parental rights of the other parent or parent of a child, contact the Law Offices of Michael Kuldiner, P.C. to schedule a consultation. Feel free to complete an online inquiry form and a member of our team will contact you shortly.