In the State of Washington, biological parents have fundamental rights when it comes to their children. They have a general right to have a relationship with their kids. They have a right to have input over how their children are raised. They have rights regarding having access to confidential information about their children and to be involved in the decision-making process for things like medical procedures and much more.
So what are you supposed to do when your child’s other parent is unfit or even a danger to your children? Some shorter-term remedies include seeking out protective orders or sole custody, but sometimes that is not enough.
In some extreme cases, one parent may be able to seek court-ordered termination of the parental rights of the other parent.
It is not easy to obtain such a termination, and there are a number of criteria that must be fulfilled in order to terminate an individual’s parental rights over their child. While every case is unique and will be considered by the court on a case-by-case basis, the single most important factor the courts will consider is what is in the best interests of the child. However, courts tend to lean towards maintaining and allowing a parental relationship whenever possible, and aggravating circumstances must be clearly, cogently, and convincingly evidenced in order to terminate parental rights.
Washington statutes list specific aggravating circumstances that can be considered grounds for a termination of parental rights. These include but are not limited to:
- Parent was convicted of rape of the child
- Parent has committed chronic abuse
- Parent was convicted of criminal mistreatment of the child
- Parent was convicted of assaulting the child
- Parent was convicted of murdering the child’s other parent, sibling, or another child
- Parent was convicted of attempting or conspiring to commit any of the above crimes
- Court finds that the parent is a sexually violent predator
- Parental abandonment of child under the age of 3
- Parent was convicted of a sexual offense or incest that resulted in the child being born
The court will consider one or more of the above factors as potential grounds for terminating the parent’s rights. If the court does terminate the parental relationship, the parent will no longer have any legal right to the child such as visitation or input in the child’s life.
However, as previously mentioned, a termination of parental rights is extremely difficult to achieve and can only be granted in extreme circumstances. If you believe it would be in the best interests of your child to terminate the parental rights of his or her other parent, you will need strong legal guidance and advocacy to have a chance at achieving your goal. Contact the law office of Kenneth J. Levey today and let’s discuss your situation and your options.