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Termination of Parental Rights “TPR” matters are brought in juvenile court in Minnesota and are governed by the Rules of Juvenile Protection Procedure.  Allegations of egregious harm, palpable unfitness, child abuse, and similar allegations that can give rise to a petition for termination of parental rights are devastating and overwhelming for not only the individuals accused, but also for their family, and even future generations.  

A petition for termination of parental rights routinely intersects with criminal charges and civil actions for an order for protection or harassment restraining order.  Overnight, individuals can be prohibited from entering their home, having contact with their children and even going to work.  The attorneys at Dudley and Smith can skillfully represent and advise you through this heartbreaking and stressful process. 

What is a Petition for “Termination of Parental Rights” (TPR)? 

A Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) is a legal action that terminates all of a parent’s rights to make decisions for the parent’s child(ren) or to care for the child(ren).  In some instances, the county may file a petition to terminate parental rights in lieu of or in addition to a petition for child(ren) in need of protection and services “CHIPS.”

A termination of parental rights may be voluntary or involuntary. The district court may grant a voluntary termination of parental rights where a parent consents to the termination in writing and there is good cause to terminate parental rights. The Court may involuntarily terminate parental rights only if it concludes one or more statutory bases exist and termination is in the child(ren)’s best interests.

 What are the legal reasons for terminating parental rights?

 There are 9 legal reasons for terminating parental rights in Minnesota, which are as follows:

 (1)      Abandonment:  Failure by parent(s) to have regular contact with their children or show interest in their wellbeing for 6 months absent a compelling reason.

 (2)      Neglect:  Failure by parent(s) to provide for the needs of the child(ren) such as food, shelter, education, clothing and other care despite an ability to do so. 

(3)      Non-compliance with court-ordered child support:  Persistent failure by parent(s) to comply with a court order for child support, unless there is a good reason for the failure to comply.  

(4)      Palpable unfitness to parent:  Failure by parent(s) to take care of the physical, emotional, and mental health of their children. 

(5)      Failure by parent(s) to correct the problems that resulted in out of home placement:  The child(ren) have been out of the home for the requisite time, there is a court ordered out-of-home placement plan, the parent(s) are not in compliance with the plan and the family has not been reunited.  

(6)      Egregious harm:  The child(ren)’s injuries while in the parent’s care indicate a lack of regard for the child(ren)’s well-being, such that a reasonable person would believe it contrary to the best interest of the child(ren) or of any child(ren) to being in the parent’s care. 

(7)      Absent birth father:   The child(ren)’s father was not married to the mother at the time of birth or conception, is not listed on the birth certificate, is not involved with the child(ren), is not supporting the child(ren), and has not registered with the father’s adoption registry. 

(8)      Neglected and in foster care:  Parental failure to remedy the problems giving rise to the child(ren) being in foster care or failure to support and maintain a relationship with the children financially while they are in foster care. 

(9)      Serious criminal conviction:  Conviction of a serious crime such as causing the death of a child, committing assault or sexual abuse against the child(ren).

A termination of parental rights requires a high standard of proof.  One of the above grounds must be proven at trial by clear and convincing evidence.  Further, the Court must find that a termination of parental rights is in the best interests of the child(ren).  If the petition is not proven by clear and convincing evidence, the district court must dismiss the petition.

 Are my rights any different if the child(ren) belong to an American Indian tribe or are eligible for tribal membership”? 

If your child(ren) are members of an American Indian tribe or are eligible for tribal membership, the rules about termination are different because of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). If applicable, the attorneys at Dudley and Smith are prepared to advise and represent you on all aspects of the ICWA. 

Can I challenge a district court’s decision to terminate my parental rights?  Yes, parent(s) may challenge, or appeal, the district court’s decision to terminate parental rights.  Within twenty (20) days of the date the order was filed, parent(s) may file an appeal with the Minnesota Court of Appeals.  The attorneys at Dudley and Smith are available to talk with you about the likelihood of prevailing on appeal. 

Should I Get a Lawyer to represent me in a child protection matter? 

Dudley and Smith’s skilled attorneys will represent you at all stages of the child protection matter, from handling the initial call from child protection to complying with child protection’s requests for information, interviews, assessments and evaluations.  Where it is questionable whether the county will be able to prove by clear and convincing evidence the petition for termination of parental rights, these cases go to trial.  We are experienced in litigating these matters.

Contact Us If you are in need of assistance and representation in a child protection matter, contact Dudley and Smith, P.A. Our firm has skilled and compassionate attorneys, including Debbie Gallenberg, who can walk you through your legal options.

The law is continually evolving and Dudley and Smith, P.A.’s blog posts should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship. Postings are for informational purposes and are not solicitations, legal advice, or tax advice. A viewer of Dudley and Smith, P.A.’s blog should not rely upon any information in the blog without seeking legal counsel.