A Brief Introduction to Termination of Parental Rights

5 January 2015
 Categories: Law, Blog


In Australia, full termination of parental rights is very rare. Even in situations where a parent is not able to care for a child due to incarceration or severe mental of physical health issues, the courts preference to retain parental rights and work towards a temporary guardianship situation either in a family situation or through the foster care system.

However under certain circumstances termination of parental rights does occur.

Voluntary termination of parental rights

If a non custodial parent has had no relationship with their child to date, and does not want to form a relationship they can apply to the court to terminate parental rights. While this can relieve the parent of child support obligations (and the legal relationship and assumption of inheritance rights), the court is not under an obligation to accept the application and will continue to look at the best interests of the child and wishes of the child.

Before a child can be adopted, the parents must either be deceased or have terminated their parental rights. In the case of voluntary relinquishment of parental rights, in order to allow adoption by a stepparent, the court with most favourable view the application if the adoption is an 'open' style of adoption where the child still has the ability to contact their birth parent whether or not both parties end up pursuing this option.

A child cannot be adopted until both parents have relinquished their parental rights.

Involuntary termination of parental rights

Involuntary termination of parental rights is an extremely rare situation and most often occurs where the parental cannot give consent to the termination of parental rights (for example due to an extremely young age or permanently diminished mental capacity).

Where the parent is currently unable to look after the child, but is interested in looking after the child in the future the child will be placed in a care situation until family reunification. The preference in Australia is to support the birth family into full parenting capacity.

In situations where there has been abuse or the child has been put in danger through neglect or exposure to distressing situations, the preference continues to be with supporting the birth parents into better parenting skills and supervised access visits to maintain some relationship between the parent and child while parenting capacity is being increased.

As with all family law proceedings in Australia the court will continue to prioritise the child's interests in the any application. For further information, talk to family law firms such as Delaney & Delaney Solicitors.