The United States Supreme Court has recognized a parent’s interest in raising and caring for their children to be one of the most important fundamental liberties guaranteed by the Constitution, there are still circumstances under which a person’s parental rights may be terminated. If a parent has demonstrated a history of repeated child abuse or child neglect and abandonment the court may terminate all parental rights.
While the termination of parental rights is a permanent court order, there are situations in which your parental rights may be restored in Virginia. You cannot seek reinstatement of your parental rights if they have been terminated, someone else with a legitimate interest in your parental rights must do so. The individual with this interest depends on the age of the child involved.
If your child is fourteen (14) years old or older, in the custody of the department of social services, and a pre-adoptive parent (or parents) have not been approved; then social services or your child’s guardian ad litem has the ability to file a motion for the restoration of your parental rights. In order to do so:
- Both you and your child must consent to the restoration of your parental rights;
- Your child must have been previously deemed abused/neglected, delinquent, in need of supervision or services;
- Your child has not attained their permanency goal or, if achieved, was not able to sustain it; and,
- Your parental rights were terminated at least two (2) years or more in the past prior to the filing the petition for restoration of parental rights. A court may accept a petition prior to this two-year deadline if your child will turn eighteen (18) before the two-year period is reached and the court finds that accepting the petition is in your child’s best interest.
If, however, your child is under the age of fourteen, the petition for restoration of your parental rights can be filed:
- By the local department of social services along with your child’s guardian ad litem, jointly; or,
- If a sibling of your child who is under the age of fourteen has already filed a petition for the restoration of your parental rights, and your child otherwise meets the criteria for filing a petition on behalf of a child who is fourteen years old or older.
After a valid petition for the restoration of your rights has been filed, the court is required to hold a hearing on the petition. At this hearing, you will be required to demonstrate, by clear and convincing evidence, that you have the ability to care for your child. If the court decides to grant the petition, then it will likely require the local department of social services to monitor and evaluate your care for your child, the results of which must be contained in a written report filed with the court.
Six (6) months after your rights have been restored, the court must hold another hearing to determine whether the placement of your child in your care should become permanent. In large part, this determination will be made based on the written report filed by the department of social services. The court must also consider:
- Whether you agree to take-on permanent custody of your child and have substantially cured the circumstances under which your parental rights were terminated in the first place;
- The age and maturity of your child; and if the child is over the age of fourteen, whether they consent to your custody, or if your child is under the age of fourteen, their preferences regarding your care for them;
- Whether your custody of the child will endanger the health, safety and wellbeing of your child;
- Whether your custody will affect any benefits the child may otherwise be entitled to; and,
- Any other material changes in the circumstances that warrant a restoration of your parental rights.
If, after considering the report and above factors, the court decides that restoring your parental rights will be in your child’s best interests, the court must grant the petition.
If you are a parent whose parental rights have been terminated and you would like them restored, or have any other family law issue, you should contact a knowledgeable family law attorney right away. The experienced family law attorneys at the DiPietro Family Law Group have decades of experience handling all types of family law matters and are here to help you. Contact one of the DiPietro family law attorneys today to schedule a consultation with a caring professional at (888) 530-4374, or visit us online.