Adoption, Termination of Parental Rights, and Paternity
Termination of Parental Rights, Paternity, and Adoption are three areas of Family Law that may be interrelated in a given circumstance or have no relationship at all.
A Paternity action, standing alone is simply an action to obtain a judicial determination of the father of a child. In the day and age of DNA testing, Paternity actions do not involve nearly the degree of discovery and argument that accompanied such an action in years gone by.
By law, a minor can only have two parents at a time. Therefore, for a child to be adopted, the Parental Rights of one or both parents must be terminated. Parental Rights can be terminated either voluntarily or involuntarily. The grounds for involuntary termination include abuse, neglect, and failure to support, among others. In an involuntary termination case, the standard of proof used is "clear and convincing" -- a standard higher than in most other Family Law matters.
In a voluntary case, parents can sign a document known as a Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental Rights.
Prospective adoptive parents can be legal strangers to a child or a step parent. In either case, a pre-adoptive home screening and post-placement report must be conducted, and the court will order each person seeking to adopt the child to obtain that person's own criminal history record information.
Competent legal representation is recommended in any case involving Paternity, Adoption, and/or the Termination of Parental Rights.