Few relationships are more sacred than that between a parent and child. As a result, few courts will want to intervene and interfere with that bond. However, there are certain times when courts will be forced to determine whether a parent's legal rights concerning their child should be terminated. This decision will not be made lightly and will require clear and convincing evidence that such a decision is in the child's best interest.
Grounds for Terminating Parental Rights
A parent's rights cannot be terminated unless there is substantial proof to show that the child is endangered. Mississippi law outlines the specific grounds on which a court may decide that the termination of parental rights is appropriate. These grounds, as defined in Mississippi Code Section 93-15-121, include:
Mental Incapacity: Rights may be terminated when the parent is medically diagnosed with a severe mental illness or deficiency, making them unable or unwilling to care for the child.
Medical Disability: Rights may be terminated when the parent is medically diagnosed with an extreme physical disability or incapacitation that prevents the parent from caring for their child, despite reasonable accommodation.
Drug and Alcohol Abuse: Rights may be terminated if there is sufficient evidence to show the parent suffers from habitual alcoholism or drug addiction and has failed to complete court-ordered treatment programs successfully.
Neglect: Rights may be terminated if a court finds that a parent is unwilling to provide food, clothing, shelter, or appropriate medical care. A parent may also lose his or her parental right if that parent has failed to visit and/or communicate with their child on a regular basis.
Abuse: Rights may be terminated if a parent has abused and/or neglected their child and caused a “deep-seated antipathy” by the child or otherwise eroded the relationship.
Criminal Acts Involving the Child: Rights may be terminated if a parent has been convicted of committing any of the following crimes against a child:
- Sexual battery
- Touching for lustful purposes
- Felony abuse or battery, or
- Carnal knowledge of a step, adopted, or other child.
Criminal Behavior: Rights may be terminated if a parent has been convicted of any of the following crimes:
- Murder or voluntary manslaughter of the child's other parent
- Attempting, soliciting, conspiring, or aiding murder of the child's other parent
- Felony assault causing serious bodily harm to any child.
Consequences of Terminated Parental Rights
What happens when a parent's rights concerning their child are terminated? In order to answer this question, it is important to understand what rights a parent actually has to begin with. When a child is born, parents are empowered with legal and physical rights. Legal rights reflect a parent's ability to make decisions about their child's life, health, and wellbeing. Physical rights reflect a parent's ability to be physically present in their child's life.
The termination of parental rights means that a parent no longer has a say in how or where their child is raised. As a result, parents have no more authority to impact their child's life than a stranger.
Tupelo Family Law Attorney
Have your rights as a parent been challenged? Has your child's other parent asked a Mississippi court to terminate your parental rights? You need the help of an experienced Tupelo family law attorney. While judges have the power to terminate parental rights under some circumstances, they also have the discretion to leave your rights as a parent intact.