What Are My Options When CPS Tries to Terminate My Parental Rights?
A termination of parental rights (TPR) case brought by the Department of Family Services (DFS) is serious and must be considered with a great deal of thought. Your response to a TPR action should be discussed with your attorney and your family. The risks of a TPR trial are high and if you lose, you will lose all contact and rights to your child. If you win, you will likely have your child returned to you at some point, but you may still be under the microscope of DFS/CPS. In this article we discuss your options if you are faced with a TPR petition:
- Try to get your child back
You are entitled to a trial and you will have the opportunity to defend the case against you. You will need to convince the judge to return your child to you. During this process, you should have an attorney and work closely with your attorney to present evidence and witness testimony to support your case. You will need to demonstrate to the Court that it is in your child’s best interests to be returned to you and that the factors of parental fault cannot be established by the State. This is a very involved task and TPR trials can be complicated. It is important to have sound legal representation for your trial.
This process allows your child to be with a relative who will have legal rights to the child. This requires approval from DFS as well as the Court. If you are considering a guardianship, the proposed guardian will need to pass a background check and must sign paperwork in order to obtain guardianship. Having a relative agree to a legal guardianship may allow you to remain in contact with the child including the right to visitation. However, terminating a guardianship can be difficult. If at some point later you decide to undo the guardianship you will need to show the court, by clear and convincing evidence, that what brought the child into DFS custody is resolved.
- Relative Placement
From the time CPS removes your child, they will look for family members to help with your child. If your child was not placed with a relative from the outset of your DFS case, you should look immediately for relatives to take the child. DFS can consider maternal and paternal relatives and if DFS is considering a relative you don’t like, you need to let them know immediately. Like a guardianship, DFS will need to conduct a background check on any relative willing to take the child. If you can get your child to a relative, the State may agree to end the TPR case by giving your relative custody of the child.
- Relinquishment and Adoption
Giving up your parental rights, known as relinquishment, means that you agree to end your legal relationship with the child. If you agree to relinquish your rights, there will not be a trial and instead, you will sign paperwork stating you are voluntarily giving up your rights. A relinquishment is final and once you give up your rights, it cannot be undone. You can sign a general relinquishment which allows DFS to find a home for your child, but you will have no further contact with the child. You can also sign an open adoption agreement which ends the parent-child relationship but still allows you some contact with the child. The terms of an open adoption agreement must be agreed to by the relinquishing parent and the adopting parent. It is important to have an open adoption agreement drafted and/or reviewed by a qualified attorney.
TPR is complicated and the process can be very frustrating. It is important to have a qualified attorney representing a defendant as soon as possible once you know a TPR is being sought by DFS. If you or someone you know is facing a TPR petition, our office can help.