The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals released an interesting opinion recently regarding termination of parental rights. Widely held as one of the highest burdens to meet in any area of the law, this opinion does nothing to diminish the fact that terminating a parent’s parental rights remains extremely difficult and is only granted in extreme, rare circumstances.
In L.R., the Court of Civil Appeals considered a case where the maternal grandparents received custody of the parties’ three minor children after a trial where it was revealed that the mother and father both had a history of drug use and criminal trouble. Morgan County DHR removed the children from L.R. after an investigation revealed that the two older children were subject to sexual abuse at the hands of neighbors with whom the mother had left them. As part of the DHR safety plan, they were placed in the custody of the maternal grandparents, and permanent legal and physical custody in June 2008.
In June 2010 the maternal grandparents filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the mother and father, and the Juvenile Court of Morgan County entered judgments terminating said rights. The mother and father appealed.
In its analysis, the Court of Civil Appeals reiterated the standard for termination of parental rights, subject to Ala Code 1975 12-15-319, which provides that the juvenile court must have “clear and convincing evidence” that the parents of a child are “unwilling to discharge their responsibilities to and for the child, or that the conduct or condition of the parents renders them unable to properly care for the child and that the conduct or condition is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future” before it can terminate parental rights. Here, the facts showed that the mother and father were improving their situations, wanted a relationship with the children, and that terminating their parental rights would further no real purpose, as the children were all adjusted and doing well.
Once again, terminating a parent’s parental rights remains one of the heaviest burdens to meet in almost any area of the law.
Read the full opinion here: http://www.alabamaappellatewatch.com/uploads/file/2100215.PDF