Termination of Parental Rights
Traditional and LGBT Families



Few areas of law are as fraught with risk and as subject to appeal as a petition or motion to terminate parental rights. In a TPR action, the client must prove that there is a valid statutory reason to terminate the rights of the parent or parents and then must prove to the court that terminating those rights is in the child’s best interest. It’s a high legal standard, and the biological parent has a constitutional right to an appointed attorney.

Some of the reasons to terminate parental rights are:

  • The parent has abused or neglected the child.
  • The parent has abandoned the child.
  • The father of the child was not married the mother and never legitimated the child or held himself out as the parent.
  • The parent has not paid child support for the child.
  • The parent has already had his/her rights terminated to another child and can’t take care of this child.

A TPR action may be necessary prior to being able to adopt a child if the legal parent doesn’t consent to the adoption.

Our attorneys are very familiar with TPR actions and we have represented clients to terminate rights of biological fathers and mothers, both known and unknown.

Call: (919) 883-4900

Termination of Parental Rights FAQ

How can we terminate the rights of a parent if we don’t know who that person is?

If a parent is unknown, or if we don’t know where s/he is located, we may still be able to terminate rights. The court will require that we use our best efforts to locate or identify the parent. If we cannot, the court may give permission to place a legal advertisement in the newspaper.

Someone has filed to terminate my rights to my child. Can you represent me?

Absolutely. Having prosecuted these actions for years, our attorneys are well qualified to defend against them as well. However, if someone has filed to terminate your parental rights, you have a Constitutional right to an appointed attorney.

If I am adopting someone else’s child, will I have to terminate their rights?

Maybe. Most adoptions require that the biological mother and father consent. If they do not, it may be necessary to terminate their rights. However, it’s sometimes possible to argue that a biological father’s consent is not necessary.

My ex won’t agree to let my husband adopt. Can we terminate his rights?

It’s possible. There are eleven separate statutory reasons to terminate a parent’s rights. When you speak with an attorney at NicholsonPham, she’ll discuss the facts of your case to determine if a TPR is possible. She will also talk with you about the pros and cons of filing a petition in your particular jurisdiction.

Can I agree to terminate my own parental rights so that I don’t have to pay child support?

No. It is not possible to file a petition to terminate one’s own rights, regardless of the reason. In some situations, however, it is possible for a parent to relinquish a child to a licensed agency, such as an adoption agency or the Department of Social Services. However, the parent will still have to pay child support until his/her rights are terminated by a subsequent adoption or TPR action.

Also, North Carolina allows the parent of infants to surrender a newborn who is less than eight days old to a safe person, such as a health care provider, police officer, social services worker or a trusted safe adult. The parent does not have to give his or her information.

What if I don’t want to terminate parental rights because I’m raising my grandchild and the parent is my son or daughter?

Terminating the rights of an adult child to a grandchild can be emotionally difficult. However, sometimes a termination is the best thing for the grandchild. There may be good reasons to terminate so that your grandchild can inherit from you or be assigned your social security benefits. Termination of parental rights is a legal act, but it doesn’t mean that the child can’t ever see their former birth mother or father. If you are the legal parent you can decide what’s best for that child.

I’m the guardian of a child that I fostered. Can I terminate the rights of the parent?

Yes. North Carolina allows court-appointed guardians to petition the court to terminate the parent’s rights. The reasons will vary from case to case. When you schedule a consultation with one or our attorneys, she will ask you about your relationship with the child and any contact the birth parent has had with the child you are raising.

Will the child have to testify in a Termination of Parental Rights case?

The child should not have to testify. In many situations, the judge will appoint a Guardian ad Litem to talk with the child and represent the child’s interests.

How will terminating parental rights affect the child’s government benefits?

That’s a good question with no one simple answer. It depends on the benefit and a combination of both state and federal legislation. If a child you’re caring for receives benefits and you are considering terminating the rights of the child’s parent, call and speak with one of our attorneys.