Termination of parental rights cases are some of the most important and complex cases that a court will hear. When parental rights are terminated for a child, it is as if the child was never born to that parent at all. Typically, parental rights can only be terminated if there is an adoption pending in Pennsylvania. There are two types of termination of parental rights: voluntary and involuntary.
A parent can voluntarily terminate his or her rights with respect to a child. This may be a consideration for a parent who is not involved in the child's life. A person may want to terminate his or her rights to a child if there is another party who wishes to adopt the child. A voluntary termination of parental rights would also terminate any support obligation that the terminating parent may face.
Sometimes, the court can be petitioned to hear cases for involuntary termination of parental rights. One parent could petition the court to terminate the other parent's rights for reasons such as lack of involvement or abuse. The state agency on child welfare may also start an involuntary termination action against one or both of the natural parents. The agency may petition the court to terminate parental rights where there is a history of abuse, the child is in danger because of a parent, or even if the parent has committed certain crimes, such as homicide. The court takes these hearings very seriously. There is a long list of factors the court must consider before involuntary termination can take place. The court must carefully consider each factor and weigh how the termination will affect the child before any decision is made.