In most cases where parents of a child are no longer together or never have been, it's best if both of them have some type of relationship with the child. Even if one person has primary physical and/or legal custody, it's generally best for a child to have the love and support of both parents. It's also best if both parents can contribute to the child's financial support.

In some cases, however, a parent believes that it's best for the child if the other parent's rights are terminated. That's not a decision that any parent should take lightly, and it's certainly not one that the courts do. Generally, unless it's determined that it's dangerous for a child to be around a parent or that parent has requested the termination of his or her parental rights, the court will try to find a less drastic alternative, such as supervised visits and/or parenting classes.

Considering the Child's Best Interests

As with all cases involving child custody, when a parent requests the termination of the other parent's rights against his or her will, the court will make the determination based on what's in the child's best interests. Courts consider such things as the child's safety, whether the parent has been in the child's life (either in person or via other forms of communication) and whether the parent has paid court-ordered child support.

If the child is old enough (generally a teenager), he or she may be asked to weigh in on the matter. Termination of parental rights can have a profound effect on a child if and when he or she is old enough to understand what has happened.

Termination of Parental Rights and Child Support

It's essential to realize that if your co-parent's rights are terminated, he or she is no longer under any obligation to pay child support. A person's parental rights cannot be terminated, however, because of refusal or inability to pay child support. The fact that a non-custodial parent has no relationship with a child may not be enough for a court to terminate parental rights, either. If a stepparent, however, wants to adopt the child, the biological parent must generally agree to terminate his or her parental rights unless a court terminates those rights.

If you are seeking termination of your child's mother or father's parental rights or if you wish to terminate your own parental rights, it's essential to seek guidance from an experienced family law attorney who can explain all of the potential legal ramifications before you go forward with it.