It's one of the worst things that can happen to a parent. You go through a divorce, and then your ex tries to end your parental rights. If they are successful, it means you will have no say in how your children are raised, and depending on the circumstances, you may even be forbidden to see them or have a relationship with them. What can you do to prevent this from happening? Here's what you need to know.
The Law Supports Parental Rights by Default
First of all, it's important to understand that in North Carolina, the law favors keeping both parents involved in a child's life whenever possible. In other words, your ex can't terminate your rights simply by asking the courts to do so. They have a high burden of proof to meet if they want to convince the courts that it's in the child's best interest to end your rights. The best way to avoid losing your parental rights is to give the courts no valid reason to do so.
Common Reasons for Terminating Parental Rights
There are several grounds on which a parent can petition the courts to terminate another parent's rights. Among the most common are:
- Parental abuse/neglect. Your ex must provide evidence that you have physically or sexually abused your child, that you failed to provide basic necessities like food, clothing, shelter, and medical care, or that you've endangered the child's safety somehow.
- Abandonment. Your ex must show that you have abandoned your parental responsibilities—for example, failing to pay child support, missing scheduled visits, showing no interest in the child's welfare, etc.
- Drug or alcohol addiction. Addiction could affect your judgment and ability to care for the child and put the child in danger.
- Inability to care for the child properly. Reasons for this could range from severe lack of income to mental illness.
Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Parental Rights
If you are worried that your ex might try to have your parental rights terminated—or if you know those rights are in danger—there are actions you can take now to avert this outcome. These may include:
- Keeping up with child support. If you are behind on payments, get current as soon as possible. If you can't afford the full amount, try to work out a payment plan with your ex or the court.
- Getting recommended counseling or treatment. If you are fighting an addiction or mental illness, getting help shows you are serious about getting better.
- Staying involved in your child's life. As you're able, attend school functions, help with homework, participate in extracurricular activities, and be involved in decisions about their medical care and education. The more involved you are, the harder it will be for your ex to convince a judge that you don't care about your child.
- Keeping detailed records. Write down (or keep electronic records of) all your interactions with your child, including visits, phone calls, emails, texts, support payments, etc. If your ex tries to say you're not involved, you'll have evidence to the contrary.
Get Help from an Experienced Attorney
If your parental rights are in jeopardy, your best line of defense is to hire an experienced family law attorney to represent your interests. The Jay Jerkins Law Firm is here to help. Call us today at (919) 719-2785 or contact us online.