The right of a parent to spend time with his or her child is often regarded as fundamental and inviolable. Unfortunately, both fathers and mothers occasionally mistreat their children in ways that require the state to intervene and to terminate the offending parent's parental rights. This post will provide a summary of one of the most contentious family law issues in Mississippi: termination of parental rights.
As might be expected, termination of a parent's rights requires clear and convincing proof of one or more relevant factors. The courts are given great discretion to decide termination cases based upon the evidence presented, and no hard and fast rules have been established. By statute, the court may consider any of the following:
- Whether the parent has been diagnosed as severely mentally ill
- Whether the parent is rendered unable to care for the child due to being physically incapacitated
- Whether the parent suffers from habitual drug addiction or alcoholism
- Whether the parent is unwilling to provide reasonably necessary food, clothing, shelter or medical care for the child
- Whether the parent has failed to engage in reasonable visitation or communication with the child
- Whether the parent's abusive or neglectful conduct has created extreme and deep-seated antipathy in the child
- Whether the parent has been convicted of any crime toward the child, including rape and sexual abuse.
A court may refuse to terminate parental rights if the child's safety and welfare will not be compromised and if terminating parental rights will not serve the child's best interests. A termination case may be instituted by the other parent, a grandparent, any other person with a legal interest in the child's welfare or the Mississippi Department of Human Rights.
The termination of parental rights can be a life changing event for both the parent and the child. Anyone involved in such a case may wish to consider consulting an experienced family lawyer for advice on the law and how the relevant facts may affect the outcome of the case.
Source: Mississippi Code Annotated §93-15-121, accessed on April 10, 2017