Can A Parent Terminate Their Rights In A New Jersey Custody Case?
In New Jersey Child Custody Case, a parent’s rights can be terminated either voluntarily or involuntarily. Sometimes a parent will voluntarily give up custody of his or her child. If this happens, the parent will most likely consent to having his or her child adopted. If agreed to willingly by the parent and witnessed by a public notary, this type of termination of parental rights is binding and irreversible.
On the other hand, parental rights might be terminated without consent of the parent. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15, there are five distinct grounds for termination of parental rights in New Jersey. They are as follows:
It appears that a court wherein a complaint has been proffered as provided in Chapter 6 of Title 9 of the Revised Statutes, has entered a conviction against the parent or parents, guardian, or person having custody and control of any child because of abuse, abandonment, neglect of or cruelty to such child; or
It appears that the best interests of any child under the care of custody of the division require that he be placed under guardianship; or
It appears that a parent or guardian of a child, following the acceptance of such child by the division pursuant to sections 11 or 12 of N.J.S.A. 30:4C-11 or 12 or following the placement or commitment of such child in the care of an authorized agency, whether in an institution or in a resource family home, and notwithstanding the reasonable efforts of such agency to encourage and strengthen the parental relationship, has failed for a period of one year to remove the circumstances or conditions that led to the removal or placement of the child, although physically and financially able to do so, notwithstanding the division's reasonable efforts to assist the parent or guardian in remedying the conditions; or
The parent has abandoned the child; or
The parent of the child has been found by a criminal court of competent jurisdiction to have committed murder, aggravated manslaughter or manslaughter of another child of the parent; to have aided or abetted, attempted, conspired, or solicited to commit such murder, aggravated manslaughter or manslaughter of the child or another child of the parent; or to have committed, or attempted to commit, an assault that resulted, or could have resulted, in significant bodily injury to the child or another child of the parent; or the parent has committed a similarly serious act which resulted, or could have resulted, in the death or significant bodily injury to the child or another child of the parent.
While this statute is very insightful, it is important to fully understand the meaning of some of the key terminology found within some of the provisions. As found in subsection (2) of the statute, the child’s best interest is always imperative to consider when deciding whether or not to terminate a parent’s rights. Pursuant to New Jersey law, four factors are considered when determining a child’s best interests. They are:
The child's safety, health or development has been or will continue to be endangered by the parental relationship; and
The parent is unwilling or unable to eliminate the harm facing the child or is unable or unwilling to provide a safe and stable home for the child and the delay of permanent placement will add to the harm. Such harm may include evidence that separating the child from his resource family parents would cause serious and enduring emotional or psychological harm to the child; and
The division has made reasonable efforts to provide services to help the parent correct the circumstances which led to the child's placement outside the home, and the court has considered alternatives to termination or parental rights; and
Termination of parental rights will not do more harm than good.
Furthermore, it is also important to understand the scope of the phrase “reasonable efforts” as mentioned in subsection (3) of the statute. New Jersey Statute N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15.1(c) defines reasonable efforts as those reasonable attempts by the Division to assist parents in remedying the circumstances and conditions that led to the placement of the child and include:
Consultation and cooperation with the parent in developing a plan for appropriate services;
(2) Providing services that have been agreed upon to the family, in order to further the goal of family reunification;
(3) Informing the parents at appropriate intervals of the child’s progress, development and health; and
(4) Facilitating appropriate visitation.
Lastly, it is vital to understand how a court determines if a parent has abandoned a child. In doing so, the court must find the following:
For a period of at least six months
a. The parent, although able to have contact, has had no contact with the child, the child’s resource family parent or the division; and
b. The parent’s whereabouts are unknown, notwithstanding the division’s reasonable efforts to locate the parent; or
The identity of the parent is unknown, and the division has exhausted all reasonable methods of attempting identification. The Division can file to terminate parental rights once the law enforcement investigation has been completed; or
The parent has voluntarily delivered the child (no more than 30 days old) to and left the child at, or arranged for another person to deliver the child to and leave the child at a police station or hospital emergency department without expressing intent to return for the child.
If you or a loved one is in fear of having his or her parental rights revoked, please do not hesitate to call The Law Offices of Edward R. Weinstein today for your free consultation. Thank you.