Grounds for Terminating Parental Rights

Under Georgia law, an individual’s parental rights may be terminated if:

  • The parent “wantonly and willfully” failed to comply with a child support order entered in Georgia or any other state for at least 12 months or more;
  • The parent consented to the termination of parental rights and such consent has been accepted by the court, or the parent voluntarily gave up the child for adoption;
  • The parent subjected the child to aggravated circumstances;
  • The child was abandoned by the parents; or
  • The child, due to a lack of appropriate parental control or care by the parent, is a dependent child and “reasonable efforts to remedy the circumstances have been unsuccessful or were not required, such cause of dependency is likely to continue or will not likely be remedied, and the continued dependency will cause or is likely to cause serious physical, mental, emotional, or moral harm to such child.”

If any of the above-mentioned grounds have been met, the court will also take the following under consideration prior to determining if termination is in the child’s best interest:

  • The child’s wishes and long-term goals;
  • The child’s sense of attachment and the continuity of affection for the child;
  • The child’s physical safety and welfare;
  • The child’s need for permanence, including the need for stability and continuity of relationships with siblings, parents and other family members; and
  • Any other factors as deemed relevant and appropriate by the court.

Georgia juvenile courts handle actions related to terminating parental rights and have exclusive authority to preside over such actions and render orders accordingly. Procedurally, the court handling the termination proceeding is required to follow a two-step process, as outlined below.

A number of guidelines must be followed to successfully initiate an action to terminate an individual’s parental rights. Given the serious nature of termination cases, the family law attorneys at Stearns-Montgomery & Proctor are prepared to handle your case with the utmost discretion and compassion.

The Two-Part Procedural Process for Terminating Parental Rights

Prior to making the decision to terminate one’s parental rights, the court will first examine whether clear and convincing evidence of parental misconduct or inability currently exists. In making that determination, four elements must be met:

  1. The child in question must be deemed to be a “deprived” child. This means that he or she must be found to be without adequate nourishment, education and/or parental care.
  2. The child’s deprived status was caused by the lack of parental care.
  3. The parent’s actions with respect to the deprived child will likely continue.
  4. The child’s continued deprivation will likely cause substantial harm (mental, emotional, physical or moral).

Each of these elements must be demonstrated in order for the court to find the existence of misconduct or inability.

Once a determination of misconduct/inability has been made, the court will proceed to the second step of the process, which involves examining whether or not terminating the individual’s parental rights would be in the child’s best interest.

Stearns-Montgomery & Proctor Can Help

Numerous factors can constitute child deprivation resulting from parental misconduct and mistreatment. For example, a parent’s conviction for molesting other children could render him or her incapable of caring for a child. Likewise, if the child has been exposed to improper sexual activities or domestic violence, such conduct could suffice to demonstrate misconduct and mistreatment.

Since the two-step procedural process outlined above can be complex, we encourage you to seek legal counsel from one of our parental termination attorneys. With four offices located throughout the Atlanta Metro Area, we are available seven days a week, with evening appointments available. Contact us today for a consultation.