How to File a Petition to Terminate a Father's Parental Rights in Mississippi

By Stephanie Reid
The Mississippi court will determine if termination of parental rights is in the child's best interests.

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Title 93 Chapter 15 of the Mississippi State Code details the process by which a parent can petition for termination of his rights. Understand that once parental rights are terminated, the natural parent no longer has any legal interest or standing in court with regard to the child. The parent must draft his petition to detail why it is no longer in the best interests of the child for him to remain the legal parent. From there, the petition must be filed in the local trial court within the county in which the child resides. A hearing will take place and a judge will determine, based on the presented evidence, whether the child will be better off if parental rights are terminated.

Determine which courthouse to file the petition. Mississippi Code § 93-15-105 explains that the petition may be filed in chancery, county or family court. To determine which of these courts is the proper one within which to file, the Code requires that the petition must be filed in the court sitting as "youth court" in the county within which the child or petitioner (person petitioning for termination) resides.

Draft a petition to terminate parental rights. The purpose of a legal petition is to inform the judge and court staff specifically what the parent is seeking. A parent seeking termination of parental rights should ensure that his draft states exactly why termination is necessary. The petition must be entitled "In the Interest of [child's name]." From there, the typed petition should detail all identifying characteristics of the child including age, sex, date of birth and permanent residence. The petition must identify the parent petitioning the court with the same information.

The petition should generally be divided into three sections. In the first section, the petitioner should set forth the facts of the case. This includes all relevant, material information the court must know about the child and parent and the current situation. The second section should detail the relevant Mississippi law on termination of parental rights. The final section should link the facts with the law and explain why, under Mississippi statutes, the parent's rights should be terminated.

Understand the Mississippi standard for termination of parental rights. In order to effectively articulate the petition, it is vital to understand what the court will be looking for in order for it terminate parental rights. First, the best interests of the child are paramount to any other consideration so include a section in the petition explaining that termination is in the child's best interests. Code § 93-15-103 explains the factors for terminating rights. Any of these factors, if present, should be included and explained in the petition including the following scenarios.

First, if the child has been removed from the home and the parents are unwilling or unable to care for him, termination may be proper. Also, desertion, no contact for six consecutive months, parent has caused a series of abusive incidents, the child has been in the care of a state agency for longer than one year, drug addition, mental deficiency, conviction of a serious felony or substantial erosion of the parent-child relationship are all factors the court will consider.

Attach a signed statement indicating the parent wishes to voluntarily terminate his parental rights. The Code requires that any parent voluntarily terminating rights to do so in writing in a document unequivocally stating he wishes to terminate his rights. The document must be signed and should be notarized to provide additional authenticity. This document should then be attached to the petition drafted in Step 3 and taken to the local youth court. Hand the documents to the court clerk who will make copies and certify receipt. Copies of the documents must be provided to the other natural parent, the child and any of the child's guardians.

Attend the termination hearing. The judge must be satisfied by clear and convincing evidence that the termination will be in the child's best interest. If he is so satisfied at the conclusion of the hearing, a final order terminating the rights will be issued and termination will be final from that day forward. Understand that one parent's termination does not affect the legal status of the other natural parent in any way.

About the Author

Stephanie Reid has been writing professionally since 2007, with work published in the Virginia Bar Association's "Family Law Quarterly" and the "Whittier Journal of Child and Family Advocacy." She received her Juris Doctor from Regent University and her Bachelor of Arts in French and child development from Florida State University. Reid is admitted to practice law in Delaware and Maryland.

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