Terese J. Singer

Termination of Parental Rights

Child Custody Lawyers Advising Parents in the Milwaukee Area

Every once in a while, parents will find themselves in circumstances in which they believe that it is necessary to voluntarily or involuntarily terminate parental rights. While this is an extreme step that is taken only in the most urgent circumstances, it may be a solution when one parent no longer wants to be involved in a child’s life or is unable to be involved in a child’s life, and there is another stepparent or guardian who will willingly take on that role. At Reddin & Singer, LLP, our Milwaukee child custody attorneys can help you navigate the procedural and emotional complexities of terminating a parent’s rights in Wisconsin and determine a thoughtful approach to your situation.

Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights

Wisconsin law allows parental rights to be terminated voluntarily or involuntarily. The voluntary termination of parental rights may seem like it should be a straightforward process, since the parent is not disputing the termination of rights. However, voluntary terminations are not routinely granted by Wisconsin courts, since they are viewed with suspicion if the termination will make it more likely that a child will be forced on public assistance with the loss of one parent’s income.

If a parent decides to proceed with a voluntary termination of rights, they must consent to the termination in a manner that will be accepted by the courts. The easiest way to do so is to appear before the court at a hearing and acknowledge consent to termination in person. A judge will likely question the consenting parent to make sure that they fully understand the ramifications of voluntary termination and are consenting in an informed manner. If a hearing is not possible, a parent may sometimes give written consent through an official written statement that includes acknowledgments about being informed of the effects of a termination of parental rights. The judge must be certain that the parent who is terminating their rights has full capacity to do so. Judges generally will not permit individuals with questionable mental capacity, such as people with an ongoing mental health issue, to consent to the termination of their rights.

Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights

The involuntary termination of parental rights occurs when one parent seeks to terminate the rights of another parent. Under Wisconsin law, there are several grounds for involuntary termination. If a child has been abandoned by one parent, the other parent may move for the termination of rights. Abandonment occurs when a parent leaves a child with another party and has not communicated with the child for at least six months, or when a court places a child with another party and the parent has not communicated with the child for at least three months.

Abandonment may occur even earlier if the child is abandoned before one year of age. Relinquishment of a child to another party when a child is less than 72 hours old is also a basis for involuntary termination, as is parental disability, failure to assume parental responsibility, or child abuse. A parent seeking to terminate the rights of another parent must file a petition for termination for a court to consider. The court will hold a hearing to determine whether termination is in the best interests of the child, which other family relationships the child has, and whether the child will have a stable family situation after the termination. Courts treat the involuntary termination of parental rights very seriously and do not make these decisions lightly.

Most courts will consider termination more favorably if it is done in conjunction with a stepparent adoption in order to ensure that the child continues to have two legal parents on whom to rely for support. When both parents are willing to agree to termination, and another individual is willing to adopt as a stepparent, Wisconsin courts may allow for a more efficient process of simultaneous termination and adoption.

Contact a Milwaukee Lawyer to Discuss Your Child Custody Situation

If you are a parent who is considering voluntarily terminating your parental rights, or if you would like to have the parental rights of your former spouse involuntarily terminated, it is important to be prepared for the fact that this may be an emotional and lengthy process. Protecting your child from the influence of a parent who does not have their best interests at heart or who is incapable of parenting them is worth the time and effort, but the path to legal termination is not always easy. At Reddin & Singer, LLP, our Milwaukee attorneys have successfully guided numerous petitions for the termination of parental rights through Wisconsin’s family law courts and can help you pursue this process. Contact our office for more information at (414) 271-6400 or online if you need a family law attorney to protect your child’s interests. We represent people in Milwaukee, Port Washington, Racine, West Bend, Waukesha, and other communities in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, West Bend, and Waukesha Counties.

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