The Terminator: No More Parental Rights

Occasionally we’re asked what the law requires in order to terminate a parent’s rights to their child. Here’s the answer: “[A] judge must find, by clear and convincing evidence, that the natural parent is unfit to further the welfare and best interests of the child.” See Adoption of Peggy, 436 Mass. 690, 701 (2002). Beyond that standard, there is no general checklist of items or behaviors to consult to determine whether a particular situation qualifies for a termination of rights proceeding. However, it’s very easy to look at parental termination cases to get an idea of what some judges have determined to meet the legal standard, outlined above.

For example, a recent Appeals Court case, Adoption of Eden, No. 14-P-220, slip.op. (September 11, 2015), found the following facts:

  • Father refused to accept services offered by Department of Children & Family (“DCF”) over an extended period of time;
  • Father acted in a manner which further harmed his children;
  • There were instances of domestic violence between the two parents;
  • Father did not seem to have an understanding of the emotional needs of the children;
  • Father did not seem to have an understanding of the medical needs of the children; and,
  • During the four years the family worked with DCF, Father showed no insight, made little or no progress, and made no attempt at cooperation.

Needless to say, Father’s parental rights were terminated, because the judge found by clear and convincing evidence that Father was unfit to further the welfare and best interests of his child.

Is it possible to use the bullet list from this case as a guide? Yes. If you feel like the facts of your case are similar or identical to the ones found in Adoption of Eden, does that mean you can guarantee that a parent’s rights will be terminated? No. Each case stands on its own; and a judge must weigh the facts of each case against the stated legal standard.

If you hope to defeat a challenge regarding your parental fitness, or feel like a termination proceeding could be considered against someone you know, your best bet is to consult an attorney who understands the laws and has experience in local courts. Contact the attorneys at Hutchins Law, P.C. today.

The purpose of this article is to inform our clients of developments in the law and to provide information of general interest. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or to assume a client relationship. The content of this article could be considered advertising under the rules of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Copyright © 2012 Hutchins Law, P.C. All Rights Reserved.