Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Termination of Parental Rights: love them or lose them.

Children.  Yours.  Do you love them?  Do you want them?  Do you take care of them?

Almost every one of you answered, "Yes, of course!" As if that were a silly series of questions.

But people are made differently.  Some people have stronger parenting genes or drives than others. Some folks obsess about their kids.  Some folks don't give them a second thought.  In my practice I see the gamut.  This blog post is about those who want to have their cake and eat it too.

Regular readers of this blog know that I posit neither gender as having exclusive title to parent of the year.  But when it comes to private termination of parental rights, I run into this issue besetting fathers far more than mothers.  

The issue arises some time after the mother has remarried, long after moving on from the father of the children.  The new couple have been raising the children together, far more as though they were the children's mother and father, rather than mother and step-father.  The couple consult with me to discuss the possibility of the step-father adopting the children.  However, before the step-father can adopt the children, the biological father's parental rights have to be terminated.

From a legal and practical standpoint, there are three issues to address to terminate a biological father's parental rights.  Two of them must be true.  The third is a nice icing on the cake.

One, has the biological father provided no support for the children for a protracted period of time?  A year is good.  Three years is better.

Two, has the biological father failed to contact the children for a protracted period of time?  Again, a year is good.  Three is better.  And the complete absence of contact is better than the occasional Christmas or Birthday card and present.

Three, is there something particularly bad about the biological father?  Is he in jail?  Has he done time for violent crimes or significant drug violations?  Did the mother and biological father separate because of domestic violence?  Did the biological father abuse the children?

If all three apply, the odds are exceptionally strong that the judge who decides the children's fate will choose to terminate the biological father's parental rights.

But so often in these cases when the couple petitions the court to terminate the biological father's parental rights, the biological dad gets a sudden case of "my babies" and wants to swoop in to express his undying affection, affinity and affiliation with his long estranged children.

Here's where the discretion of the trial judge comes in.  The good trial judge will take a Sergeant Friday approach seeking, "just the facts, m'am."  The drama takes a back seat to the reality on the ground.  But some judges get caught up in the draconian aspect of the death sentence of termination of parental rights and give that biological dad just one more chance.

So, if you are a biological dad and your ex has moved on to a real swell who is sweeping your children off of their feet, get busy.  Show your children you love them.  Show them that you are constantly thinking about them.  Pay support.  Don't miss visitation.  And if you can't keep up that schedule, if you can't foot the bill the State of Georgia decided was necessary to raise healthy children into responsible adulthood, seriously consider where you're coming from and what is in the children's long term best interest.

In a perfect world, the children's divorced daddy is very much an integral part of their lives, just as much as the divorced mommy.   The kids continue to be loved and protected by both parents.  But if one parent is voluntarily absent, let the children fill that void with someone blessed with a stronger parenting gene.

They are your children.  But you have to love them or you will certainly lose them.

Michael Manely


  1. This brings a tear to my eye. Thank you for sharing.

  2. This blog is really sensitive and soulful, i like this blog because in this blog writer represents the termination of parental rights. It is very serious issue and very important to know all of them.Thanks for sahring.

    Risk of Topamax