In Maryland, parental rights may be terminated either involuntarily or voluntarily. There are certain circumstances that might lead a court to order a termination. Parents may also terminate their own rights voluntarily, which normally happens in the case of adoption.
Involuntary termination of parental rights ends the legal relationships between parents and children. Courts may order this if the parents have committed acts such as sexual abuse, chronic neglect and other severe forms of abuse against their children. Parents may also have their rights terminated if they abandon their children, fail to support them or fail to keep in contact with them.
When the involuntary termination of a parent’s rights will leave a child without any legal guardians, the child may be placed in foster care. Once the rights are terminated, the child may be placed for adoption. In cases in which a noncustodial parent refuses to acknowledge his or her child, support the child or abandons the child, the custodial parent may file a motion with the court asking that the parent’s rights are involuntarily terminated. If stepparents wish to adopt their spouses’ children, the noncustodial parents must first agree to their rights being terminated.
Both parents have equal rights to make educational and other decisions and to have parenting time with their children. However, courts can remove these rights from parents if they believe that it is in the best interests of the children to do so. Parents who want to seek the termination of parental rights of their children’s other parents might benefit by seeking guidance from family law attorneys.