The termination of a father's rights is a legal process that severs all ties the father has to the child. The father will no longer have a right to make decisions regarding the child, to receive visitation or to learn of legal proceedings involving the child. In Michigan, termination of rights can be voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary termination occurs when a father willingly relinquishes his rights, whereas involuntary termination occurs when a father's rights are terminated for a reason. Involuntary termination may be initiated by a parent, guardian or state agency.
Determine the proper jurisdiction. Juvenile courts have jurisdiction over termination proceedings, and parents must file their petition in the juvenile court in the county in which the child resides.
Draft a document requesting termination of parental rights. When termination of rights is voluntary, the petition does not necessarily need to be drafted in legalese. Instead, it must be signed and indicate you wish to terminate rights. Provide information about the child's current residence, the age and name of the child, and the reason you wish to terminate rights. An online document provider can help you draft an appropriate petition.
Return this petition to the clerk of court and pay the filing fee.
Serve the child's other parent as well as any guardians appointed for the child with the appropriate paperwork. The clerk will then schedule a hearing on the matter. If the child is currently in the custody of a state agency, you may submit the petition to the state agency instead.
Attend the hearing. The judge may ask you questions about the reason for termination, and will determine whether or not termination is in the child's best interests. If the judge agrees to termination, she will issue an order severing parental rights. Your child will then be eligible for adoption by another party.
Gather evidence that the father's parental rights should be terminated. Michigan law allows several grounds for involuntary termination, including prolonged abuse or neglect, an extended period of no contact with the child or the parent has not financially supported the child for more than two years. Evidence might include written statements, photographic evidence, medical records or eyewitness testimony.
Draft a petition seeking termination of parental rights. This is a legal pleading and can be difficult for a layperson to draft. You may wish to use an online document provider. Some counties also provide blank petitions you can fill out. Ask the clerk in the county in which you are filing if such a form is available.
Itemize the reasons for the termination in the petition and, if there is a prospective adoptive parent, list the adoptive parent. You should also include the child's name, current place of residence and the last known location of the father.
Give the petition to the clerk of court in the juvenile court in the county in which the child resides.
Serve the child's father with a copy of the petition for termination. This ensures that he can object to termination if he does not want his rights terminated.
Wait for a hearing to be scheduled.
Attend the hearing and present your evidence in favor of termination. You may call witnesses to testify to deficits in the father's parenting, submit written documentation indicating the father has not had contact with the child or that he is abusive or neglectful. If there is a prospective adoptive parent, he should attend the hearing and testify as a witness that he is planning to adopt the child. The judge will weigh the evidence and determine whether rights should be severed and, if she agrees to sever rights, issue an order doing so.
The father will have an opportunity to present evidence that termination is not in the child's best interests.
If the father does not appear at the hearing after being properly served, the judge may terminate rights or may re-schedule the hearing. Because rights termination is permanent, judges strive to give fathers the opportunity to defend themselves before rights are terminated.
Rights cannot be terminated simply because someone else wishes to adopt the child. The father must have done something that authorizes the termination of rights.
You cannot terminate parental rights to avoid paying child support, and if you owe back child support, you may still have to pay this after your rights are terminated.
- Cutler and Associates, P.C.: Termination of Parental Rights
- Michigan Child Welfare Law: Chapter 11 Termination
- Michigan Compiled Laws: Probate Code of 1939 (Excerpt)
- Updates in Family Law: Termination of Parental Rights in a Divorce Upheld by the Court of Appeals
- Michigan Children's Law Blog: In re: Beck - Supreme Court Opinion - Child Support