“Leave me, and you’ll never see your children again.” A haunting phrase, for sure. For some, it might even sound a bit more than a threat. No doubt you might be worried that divorce can affect your parental rights. For sure, it should be one of the top reasons that you seek out the counsel of an experienced family law attorney.
New Jersey laws don’t exactly spell out what constitute parental rights. Rest assured, however. NJSA 30:4C-15 sets forth the conditions that qualify for the termination of parental rights. In the end, it’s not quite as easy as your child’s other parent might like you to think.
In some cases, it’s nothing more than a cruel attempt to get you where it hurts most. Children as pawns should be part of an alternative universe. Yet, it’s something that happens each and every day. Too often, parents manipulate situations – without any concern to the harm they are posing to their offspring.
Meanwhile, that’s not to say that there aren’t circumstances where a child might benefit from the termination of parental rights. These matters aren’t taken lightly. After all, it all comes down to the best interests of the children.
Termination of Parental Rights
You should know that parental rights can be voluntarily or involuntarily terminated. Those who voluntarily give up their parental rights aren’t necessarily doing so with a sense of malice. It could be that they readily recognize their inability to act as a mother or father – or never wanted to be one in the first place.
Of course, there’s another consideration that occurs quite frequently. Take the story of Victor Santos. He and his wife divorced a few years ago. Although Victor pays his child support on time, it’s a struggle. His two sons are involved in a number of activities and he rarely sees them. Candidly, Victor spends most of his free time with his new wife and their new baby.
Victor’s former wife, Maria has also remarried. She and her husband are expecting their first child. Maria is upset that the children from her prior marriage have a different last name. Her new husband has agreed to adopt the boys. One caveat. Victor must agree to the termination of his parental rights.
After great thought, Victor agrees to the voluntary termination. He justifies his actions as acting in the best interests of his children. Meanwhile, Victor is also secretly relieved that he will no longer need to make child support payments.
Involuntarily Termination of Parental Rights
In the meantime, there are rare divorce cases that involve an involuntarily termination of parental rights. According to the law, this may occur in these circumstances:
- Conviction involving abuse, abandonment, neglect of or cruelty to a child
- Best interests of the child suggest appointment of a guardian
- Child has been removed from the household for over a year – and conditions have not been remedied
- Parent has abandoned the child
- Parent has been found by a criminal court of competent jurisdiction to have committed murder, aggravated manslaughter or manslaughter of another child of the parent; to have aided or abetted, attempted, conspired, or solicited to commit such murder, aggravated manslaughter or manslaughter of the child or another child of the parent; or to have committed, or attempted to commit, an assault that resulted, or could have resulted, in the significant bodily injury to the child or another child of the parent; or the parent has committed a similarly serious act which resulted, or could have resulted, in the death or significant bodily injury to the child or another child of the parent
Notably, the involuntarily termination of parental rights is a serious matter. The courts do their best to keep families together.
Are you concerned about how your divorce will impact your parental rights? Contact the Law Offices of Sam Stoia to see how we can assist you.