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Family law and terminating parental rights in North Carolina

Directing the custody, care and control of the children is a constitutionally protected parental civil right in North Carolina and all other states. However, these parental rights come with parental responsibilities as well. If parents fail to meet the responsibilities associated with raising and protecting children, parental rights could be challenged, and in some cases terminated altogether.

Once parental rights have been terminated, parents lose the civil rights they have previously enjoyed and no longer have a say in how their children are raised and cared for. The termination of parental rights is both permanent and complete, according to North Carolina family law statutes. Some of the grounds upon which North Carolina law bases the decision about the termination of parental rights include:

-- Child abuse inside the home

-- Abandonment of the child

-- Neglect or failing to provide proper supervision and/or discipline

-- Failing to comply with a child custody or child support order

-- Failure to establish paternity in cases where the parents are unmarried

In most cases, an outside agency concerned about the child's welfare will file a petition with the court seeking to terminate parental rights. Other times, one of the parents may file such a petition against the other parent.

While the state of North Carolina will not take away a parent's rights without a comprehensive evaluation of the facts and evidence, it is in the family's best interests to take such a threat seriously. Parents have a limited time to respond when their parental rights are challenged. A family law attorney is necessary when responding to a petition to terminate parental rights. Without representation, parents could risk losing access to their children permanently.

Source: North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, "Termination of Parental Rights," accessed Sep. 24, 2015

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