By popular demand: a crash course on the Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) process (disclaimer: this is based on our experience, your mileage may vary). For the vast, vast, vast majority of children that come into care, the initial goal is reunification with the parents. For a multitude of reasons, the goal may at some point change to TPR & Adoption. (Updated 11.27.14: now that we’ve done this a couple of times, I have more information.)
- DCF or GAL requests a change of goal to TPR/Adoption
- The judge asks the other attorneys (DCF, GAL and parents’ attorneys) their position on the change
- The judge may order the change of goal. If not, continue current case plan; lather, rinse, repeat
- If judge approves TPR/Adoption goal, an Advisory hearing is set for approximately 45 days later
- At the Advisory hearing, if it’s not continued*, each bio parent has the following options:
- Fail to show up for the hearing. In this case, their parental rights are terminated by default. This is considered an involuntary termination (this is a surprisingly popular option).
- Show up and voluntarily surrender their child. This is a no-take-backs situation. The judge takes the time to make certain the parent knows what is happening and that they can’t change their mind later and hasn’t been promised anything, blah, blah, blah.
- If a bio parent nos-shows the Advisory hearing or voluntarily surrenders, a Disposition hearing is set for 2-3 weeks later At this hearing the termination/surrender is “dispo’d” or finalized and and that bio parent has no further rights to the child.
- Show up and contest the termination. Then a date is set for TPR Pre-trial and TPR Hearing.
- If they lose at the hearing, their parental rights are involuntarily terminated.
- If they don’t show up for the hearing, their parental rights are involuntarily terminated.
- If they no-show or lose the TPR trial, the case is typically “dispo’d” immediately.
- After dispo, there is a 30-day appeal period for involuntary termination of parental rights
There are exceptions, when one parent presents a demonstrable threat to the child and the other parent lives out of state and is trying to get a homestudy done, is one example I’ve heard. But in the normal course of business, the State prefers to sever all parental rights at the same time. For this reason, if one parent surrenders, but the other wants a trial, the surrender will not be “dispo’d” until the second parent’s rights are terminated. Also for this reason, if the bio father has not been identified, the Advisory hearing can continued. – How many times can it be continued? I’ll have to get back to you…