We often get asked questions about termination of parental rights and how or if it can happen.
In the State of Oklahoma, a parent’s rights can be terminated in two instances. The first being if the District Attorney of a county brings a petition alleging that the child of that parent is deprived. This is done in the State of Oklahoma in juvenile proceedings and will involve the Department of Human Services. The other type of action is a private action done through the adoption process, by which a parent’s rights are terminated to vest the parent-child relationship in another. While there are several types of adoption proceedings, we will be specifically addressing step-parent adoptions.
We often help individuals begin step-parent adoptions or defend against them. A step-parent adoption is when a biological parent seeks to terminate the rights of the other biological parent and instill the parent-child relationship in the step-parent. It is possible for a parent to consent to an adoption.
There are a set of specific circumstances under which a parent’s rights may be terminated in the adoption process. One common method of termination is when a parent has failed to contribute to the support of their child by paying child support if a court order for support exists, for twelve consecutive months before the parent seeking the adoption files the petition for adoption. Another is when a parent has failed to maintain a relationship with their child, by failing to exercise any visitation, whether in-person, video, or telephonic, or exercising their parental rights or duties, for the same twelve consecutive months prior to the filing of any adoption matter.
There are several other scenarios under which a parent’s rights may be terminated, including a period of extended incarceration, that are listed and found in Oklahoma law. If you are considering either seeking to have your child or step-child adopted, or contesting an adoption proceeding, it is very important to consult with an attorney as these proceedings are highly procedural in nature and the law can be very nuanced in this area.
For some children, adoption is the best or only method available to find a loving home, which is why the adoption statutes and provisions are so important and why we practice adoptions.
However, the provisions the Oklahoma Legislature have developed contemplated involuntary termination of parental rights. A parent’s right to their child is a fundamental right, and any time an adoption is contested, it is treated to a heightened standard by the court, as is proper. As there were 7,000 children in Oklahoma’s foster care system in 2022, lawmakers have sought to reform the current system to make adoption easier for prospective adoptive families. This may change the standard for termination of parental rights that has previously existed, which many argue already makes it too easy to terminate.
The Smith Firm represents parents seeking adoptions as well as those contesting the attempt to adopt their child. We will be happy to discuss your case with you to determine how we can help. Call now to connect with an attorney from The Smith Firm who can assist you.