Our last blog post discussed the grounds in which a parent’s rights to a child can be involuntarily terminated. In regards to this matter, there was a recent Bucks County court decision which terminated the parental rights of a former partner. The decision was appealed by the former partner to the Pennsylvania Superior Court on the grounds that there were “extenuating circumstances” which prevented the father from fulfilling his parental duties. On June 18th, 2019, a Superior Court judge determined that the trial court did not find the former partner’s appeal warranted a reversal of the lower court’s decision.
How did they come to this decision? The basic facts of the case are as follows:
- Father had not seen the child in six years prior to the filing of the petition to terminate his parental rights
- Additionally, the father had not tried to contact the mother about speaking with the children despite having the mother’s contact information since 2014
- Father had struggled financially (unemployed since 1998 because of physical ailments) and emotionally (anxiety and depression) during this time period which prevented him from having a better relationship with the child
(In Re: EDL—Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights of E.H., No. 2018-A9119)
The court found that the mother had made a convincing argument that the parental rights of the father should be terminated due to his lack of involvement in the child’s life despite the fact that the father could have contacted the mother to visit/talk to the child. As discussed previously, a parent’s rights can be terminated if the parent has not performed their parental duties for a period of at least six months. “Parental duties are best understood in relation to the needs of a child.” The father attempted to explain that his lack of involvement was caused primarily by his issues with his health and mental state. However, the Court found that the father’s health had improved recently (over a year before the petition was filed) based on the father’s own testimony and he still did not try to establish a relationship with the child. As well, the parent-child relationship was essentially non-existent as the child had developed a strong bond with the step father and is doing well both emotionally and academically. Conclusively, the father had not maintained a strong enough bond with the child due to his prolonged absence in the child’s life and would not be beneficial for the father to have his parental rights restored.
This is a great, concrete example of what is considered by the court when determining whether parental rights should be terminated. If you have questions about parental rights, please reach out to our team to discuss your unique situation.
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