Parental Rights

Parental rights describes the legal relationship between the parent and the child. This legal relationship includes the parent's responsibility to financially support the child, the parent's right to custody, to visit with the child, to make educational, religious, or medical decisions for the child.

Before an adoption can take place, the child must be legally free to be adopted. This means that the legal relationship between the biological parents and the child has been ended. Once the relationship ends, the parent can no longer makes decision about the child.


Surrender of Parental Rights
(Agency Adoption)

A surrender of parental rights is when a child's biological parents agrees to give up their parental rights voluntarily. The surrendering of parental rights is irrevocable. This means that it's a permanent decision and can't be canceled or changed.

The surrender can be conditional or unconditional. In a conditional surrender, the birth parents may keep some of their parental rights while allowing the child to be adopted. This could be a say in who adopts the child and the right to visit contact and visit with the child after the adoption. This is known as an open adoption. In an unconditional surrender, the birth parents have given up all their parental rights including the right to contact or communicate with the child.


Termination of Parental Rights
(Child in Agency Placement)

A termination of parental right happens when a city agency (like NYC Administration for Children's Services - ACS) or foster care agency files a petition in Family Court asking a Judge to end a parent's parental rights. The petition must give a ground (legal reason) for the termination. There are five legal grounds to terminate parental rights: abandonment, permanent neglect, mental illness, mental retardation, and severe and repeated abuse.

Parents have the right to a free, court-appointed lawyer for a termination case if the Judge thinks that the parent can't afford a lawyer. A parent can't bring a termination case against the other parent in a custody case.

In a termination case, there will be a trial called a fact-finding hearing. This is where the other side tries to prove the grounds for termination. The Judge will decided after the fact-finding hearing whether or not your parental rights will be terminated.

If the court has terminated your parental rights, you can appeal the order of termination. This is when you ask a higher court to examine the Family Court termination order. You only have 30 days from the date the order was made to appeal a Family Court order.

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