• Megan E. Spidell

What Does It Mean to Terminate Parental Rights?

Updated: Apr 23


Are you thinking about terminating parental rights?


A petition to terminate parental rights can be filed by either the other parent or the Department of Social Services (DSS) if the other parent puts the child in a dangerous situation caused by neglect, abuse, abandonment, or another issue.

When DSS or the other parent files to terminate parental due to the applicable grounds (see below), it is referred to as involuntary termination of parental rights. Aside from the NC courts, a parent can petition to terminate parental rights of the other parent for a variety of legal reasons. If parental rights are terminated, the parent named in the petition will no longer have the right to make decisions for the child or have custody of the child.


Who Can Terminate Parental Rights in NC?

The following people are allowed to petition for the termination of parental rights in NC:

● One parent against the other

● A guardian for the juvenile appointed by the court

● A person the child has lived with for at least two years prior to filing of the petition

● Anyone who has filed a petition for the adoption of the child

● Guardian ad litem appointed by the court

● A county DSS agency who has custody of the child

It’s important to note that in the state of North Carolina, you cannot voluntarily terminate your own parental rights.


In order for a parent to have the parental rights of another parent terminated, he or she must file a petition with the courts in North Carolina.

Reasons for Terminating Parental Rights in North Carolina

In order for a parent to have the parental rights of another parent terminated, he or she must file a petition with the courts in North Carolina. The petition must prove that terminating parental rights is in the best interests of the child, while also meeting any of the following grounds for termination:

● The child was neglected or abused.

● The child was left in foster care for more than one year.

● Abandonment

● Dependency

● Child support has not been paid for one or more years.

● The father has failed to establish paternity.

● A parent relinquished their child to DSS for adoption.

● A parent has murdered another parent or child in the home.

● The parental rights of another child were terminated, and a safe home cannot be provided.

● A violent felony was committed.


How Does the Court Respond?

Even if you are able to prove one or more of the above grounds for termination, the court has the final say regarding whether or not the other parent’s rights can be terminated based on the best interests of the child.

The court looks at the following when determining the best interest of the child:

● The child’s age

● The likelihood of the child being adopted

● If the termination of parental rights will assist in the permanent plan for the child

● The bond the child has with the parent

● The relationship the child has with the proposed adoptive custodian, guardian, permanent placement, or parent

Has your child been placed in an abusive situation with their other parent? Has their other parent failed to pay child support?


Depending on the facts, you may be able to terminate parental rights.

Spidell Family Law is ready to assist you if you do have a case.




How to Terminate Parental Rights in North Carolina

When you file a petition to terminate parental rights, you are required to provide factual evidence that shows grounds for termination. You cannot provide only a general statement that your child has been neglected or abused by their other parent. Instead, the courts will require evidence that one of the grounds to terminate is present. Your attorney can help guide you in what may or may not be accepted as evidence.


When you file a petition to terminate parental rights, you are required to provide factual evidence that shows grounds for termination.

Next Steps

Once the petition has been filed, notices are sent to both parents and a court-appointed guardian (if there is one). The petition must then be answered within 30 days, or the parent could have their rights terminated without further court consideration.


Whether the opposing parent responds to the petition or not, the court will schedule a hearing to review the evidence presented in the petition. By law, the other parent is permitted to attend the hearing to terminate parental rights in North Carolina and to be represented by a lawyer.


How to Terminate the Rights of an Unknown Parent

If you do not know the other parent of the child, you can request for the court in North Carolina to terminate the parental rights of the unknown parent. A preliminary hearing will be conducted by the court in an effort to identify the unknown parent. The hearing is required before parental rights can be terminated.

The next step is for the court to publish a public notice in an attempt to identify the unknown parent. After the public notice is published, the court can then move to terminate the parental rights of the unknown parent. However, the process of terminating the rights of an unknown parent can only start with the filing of a petition by the custodial parent.

Speak with an Experienced Family Law Attorney Today

Do you have questions about how you can terminate parental rights of your child’s other parent in North Carolina? Are you ready to move forward with a petition?

If so, it’s essential to speak with an experienced family law attorney.


Call our office TODAY at (336) 907-7047. Or email us to schedule your appointment.

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