People often say that raising children is one of the hardest jobs in the world. Where people truly fail to rise to the occasion, the Department of Human Resources (“DHR”) may even take away a parent’s rights to his or her children.
Recently, in Montgomery County, Montgomery County Department of Human Resources v. O.W. addressed DHR’s petition to terminate a mother’s parental rights. The mother gave birth to M.R. (“the oldest child”) in 2010 when the mother was 15 years old. The juvenile court placed both mother and child in foster care until the mother was 19. The oldest child remained in foster care thereafter.
M.W. (“the middle child”) was born in 2014. DHR allowed the mother to take the middle child home and additionally granted the mother visitation with her oldest child. Eventually, both the oldest and middle child were removed from the mother’s care and placed in the care of the foster mother. S.W. (“the youngest child”) was born in 2016 and also placed with the foster mother.
Though the mother was permitted visitation with all three of her children, DHR filed separate petitions in June 2016 to terminate the mother’s parental rights. The mother voluntarily consented to give up her parental rights, with the plan for all three children being their adoption by the foster mother. However, the juvenile court entered an order where it declined to terminate parental rights. DHR appealed.
When determining if a parent’s parental rights should be terminated, the juvenile court must apply a two-step test: (1) there must be clear and convincing evidence to support a finding that the children are dependent; and (2) the court must consider and reject all viable alternatives to a termination of parental rights.
In this case, DHR put forth clear evidence that all of the alleged fathers had abandoned the children. Thus, DHR clearly set out that each child was dependent upon the mother.
Additionally, DHR established that a termination of parental rights was the only option. DHR attempted to make reasonable efforts to rehabilitate the mother and to explore multiple relatives as potential custody placements for the children. The mother neither accepted rehabilitation nor did any relatives accept custody. Thus, termination of parental rights in favor of the foster mother was the best option. As such, the juvenile court exceeded its discretion in denying DHR’s petitions. The judgment is reversed, and the mother’s parental rights terminated.
This case is a good example that it is a very high bar in order to take parental rights away from a biological parent. However, if the Court sees that children are not being cared for and all of its factors are met, a court will take children away when necessary.
Having an experienced family law attorney on your side can be very important. If you are involved in a family law case, contact INGRAM LAW LLC at (205) 335-2640 for an attorney with the experience and knowledge that can make all the difference