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How Does a Parent Lose His/Her Rights?

Often referred to as the “civil death penalty,” termination of parental rights is taken very seriously. When a parent’s rights are terminated that person is no longer the child’s legal parent. Judges do not terminate a parent’s rights without a very good reason.

What Rights Are Taken Away?

All legal rights are taken away. This means:

  • The parent-child relationship no longer exists
  • The parent is removed from the child’s birth certificate
  • The parent (usually) has no right to visit the child or talk with the child
  • The parent does not have the right to raise the child
  • Child support obligations end
  • The child can later be adopted without the parent’s permission

Can I Voluntarily Give Up My Rights?

Not usually. Nevada courts believe that children should have two parents to provide emotional and financial support. You may do so to consent to an adoption of your child. Or you may do so if someone else has filed a petition to terminate your rights.

Who Can Ask to Terminate a Parent’s Rights?

A parent, guardian, or other relative of the child can petition the court to terminate a parent’s rights. If CPS has been involved the Department of Family Services can file a petition to terminate a parent’s rights in very serious cases. *Note that if the child or the petitioner receive public assistance (such as TANF or SNAP) it is unlikely the judge will terminate the parent’s rights. In such a case, the Child Support Office must be notified of the termination case and may oppose it if public assistance is being provided.

What Are the Reasons to Terminate a Parent’s Rights?

There are several different reasons a parent’s rights may be terminated in Nevada:

  • Abandonment. This is typically when a parent has not contacted the child nor provided any financial assistance to the child for at least 6 months without a good reason.
  • Neglect: The parent has failed to properly care for the child. This includes things like not providing food, medical care, shelter, education or any other special care the child needs.
  • The Parent is Unfit: This means the parent can’t or won’t provide the child with proper care, guidance, and support.
  • There is a Serious Risk of Physical, Emotional, or Mental Injury if the Child is Returned to the Parent: The child would be in serious risk of danger if placed with the parent.
  • Token Efforts. This is when a parent has made minimal efforts to support the child, care for the child, or communicate with the child.
  • Failure of Parental Adjustment: If CPS removed the child from the home, the parent has limited time to correct the reasons that caused the removal. If reasonable time has passed, and the parents have not corrected the issues, the state can petition to terminate the parent’s rights.
  • Sexual Assault: If the child was conceived due to sexual assault and the parent was convicted of sexual assault, their rights can be terminated.

The judge must also decide that it is in the child’s best interests to terminate the parent’s rights. The person petitioning to terminate has to prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that a valid ground exists, and that the child’s best interest is served. This standard is very high.

What Happens if I Don’t Know Where the Parent Is?

You will be required to perform due diligence to find the parent. In other words, you must do everything possible including contacting the parent’s family, friends, mutual friends, their employer, past employers, searching online for the person, etc., to try and find them. If all of these efforts fail, you can then ask the judge to allow you to serve the parent via publication. This means you would post a notice in a newspaper for 4 weeks announcing the termination case, AND also have the parent’s nearest known relative living in Nevada served in person with the papers.

For more information concerning child custody matters and how we can help, visit our child custody section.

Whether you need assistance with terminating a parent’s rights or your rights are being threatened and you need representation, we can help! Call us at 702-515-1500 for your free and confidential consultation.

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