The termination of parental rights can be devastating for a parent who wishes to be a part of their child’s life. Although the procedure is time consuming and not simple to navigate, it is possible to have parental rights restored in Virginia. An experienced attorney can be an invaluable resource to guide you through this process.
According to a state statute, Virginia Code Section 20-124.1, anyone whose parental rights have been terminated lacks standing to file a petition with the court for custody. Standing is a basic requirement to bring suit in any court, and the lack of it means the court will not be able to hear the case. Section 20-124.1 states that only those with a ‘legitimate interest” may petition for custody of a child. It has been held that those whose parental rights were terminated lack this “legitimate interest.” Until recently this meant that there was no way for those whose parental rights had been terminated to file a custody petition.
In 2013, however, the Virginia state legislature adopted Virginia Code Section 16.1-283.2. This new statute provides a mechanism to restore parental rights. If successful in restoring parental rights, the parent will then have a “legitimate interest” in the child, and will have standing to file a custody petition in court.
The determination of whether or not parental rights will be restored will be decided in a hearing. The standard of proof required to prevail in a parental right restoration hearing is “clear and convincing evidence.” If the court finds that the petitioning parent has offered clear and convincing evidence of his or her ability to care for the child, then the court will engage the services of social workers to look into the relationship between the parent and child. If this relationship is satisfactory, the child may temporarily be placed with the parent.
About six months after placement a second hearing will be held. During this hearing the court will decide if the placement is working and should be made permanent. Consideration will be given to a report prepared by social services. If the arrangement is found to be in the best interests of the child, full parental rights will be restored. When determining what constitutes the best interests of the child, the court will look at several factors. These include if the conditions that led to the termination of parental rights have been remedied, whether the restoration presents a risk to the life, health, or development of the child, and whether the restoration will affect benefits available to the child. The personal feelings of mature children over 14 years of age may also be taken into account.
For a parent seeking to have his or her parental rights restored the process may be long and difficult, but is possible thanks to a recent change in the law. The experienced attorneys of DiPietro Family Law Group are ready to help those in the Northern Virginia area with issues relating to child custody and parental rights. Contact them today by calling (888) 530-4374 to schedule a consultation.