What You Need to Know About How to Terminate Parental Rights in Massachusetts
Many may feel that terminating parental rights can be a significant and sensitive endeavor. Here is how to terminate parental rights in Massachusetts.
Parental Rights in Massachusetts
A child’s legal parents have a degree of rights over their child’s upbringing. These rights include the right to spend a certain amount of time with the child, the ability to make decisions that impact the child’s welfare, and more generally, the ability to contact and otherwise access the child. However, in cases where the natural or legal mother and/or father endanger the child’s welfare, the court may revoke these rights in order to protect the child.
Grounds for Terminating Parental Rights in Massachusetts
The court may decide to revoke the parental rights of the natural mother or father in certain circumstances, or the parents may voluntarily petition to have their rights revoked. When the courts choose to revoke the parent’s parental rights, they are typically for one of a couple of reasons. One reason may be that the state determines that the child is in an unsafe situation, perhaps subject to neglect or abandonment in the family home. Many of these cases do not end in parental rights termination, and the courts typically only resort to this after reasonable efforts to work with the parents prove unsuccessful. Additionally, a court may decide to revoke parental rights when one parent demonstrates to the court that the other parent’s rights should be terminated due to abuse, neglect or abandonment. Finally, a parent may have their parental rights revoked if they were convicted of a violent felony.
Massachusetts delineates between two types of factors in determining whether a parent’s parental rights may be involuntarily terminated. These factors are called “child abuse factors” and “parental factors”. Child abuse factors include but are not limited to:
- Severe or chronic physical abuse of the child.
- Any sexual abuse of the child.
- Severe psychological abuse or torture of the child.
- Extreme emotional damage to the child inflicted by the parent.
- Child neglect by failing to provide shelter, food, or other needed care as is required by parental obligations.
- Abuse or neglect of other children in the same household.
- Abandonment of the child or extreme parental disinterest.
- Felony conviction of the parent for a violent crime against the child or another family member.
On the other hand, parental factors include when:
- A parent executes a written surrender.
- A parent neglects or abandons the child.
- A parent threatens the child’s wellbeing.
- A parent is incarcerated.
- A parent commits murder, manslaughter, aiding or abetting murder, or conspiracy or solicitation to murder the other parent/child.
- A parent had a sibling of the child removed from the home on three or more occasions.
- A parent had parental rights of the child’s sibling involuntarily terminated.
- The court recognizes a parent as a sexual predator
- A parent has a history of extensive, abusive, and chronic use of alcohol or drugs.
- A child tests positive for drugs or alcohol at birth.
- A child is conceived from the result of sexual battery or rape.
- The court adjudicates the child as a dependent, and the case plan is violated.
- Egregious conduct occurs.
FAQs About How to Terminate Parental Rights in Massachusetts
What is egregious conduct?
Egregious conduct is understood to be actions such as abuse, abandonment, neglect, or any other conduct considered deplorable, flagrant, or outrageous by normal conduct standards. Additionally, egregious conduct can include actions which can endanger a child’s life, even if the action occurred only once.
Can a parent voluntarily terminate parental rights in Massachusetts?
Some parents choose to voluntarily terminate their rights. Typically, this may happen following an adoption procedure. However, parents cannot voluntarily terminate their rights to avoid supporting their child.
Do non-biological parents possess the same parental rights as biological parents in Massachusetts?
Non-biological parents possess the same parental rights if Massachusetts recognizes the parents as the child’s legal parents. A non-biological parent may even end up with more parental rights if the biological parent is incapacitated, incarcerated, or has already voluntarily forfeited their parental rights.