Grounds for Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights - Alabama

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Circumstances That Are Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights

Citation: Ala. Code § 12-15-319

If the court finds from clear and convincing evidence that the parents of a child are unable or unwilling to discharge their responsibilities to their child, it may terminate the parental rights of the parents. In a hearing on a petition for termination of parental rights, the court shall consider the best interests of the child. In making this determination, the court shall consider, but not be limited to, the following:

  • The parent has abandoned the child, provided that in these cases, proof shall not be required that reasonable efforts were made to prevent removal or reunite the child with the parents.
  • Emotional illness, mental illness, or mental deficiency of the parent or excessive use of alcohol or controlled substances has rendered the parent unable to care for the child.
  • The parent has tortured, abused, cruelly beaten, or otherwise maltreated the child; attempted to torture, abuse, cruelly beat, or otherwise maltreat the child; or the child is in clear and present danger of being thus tortured, abused, cruelly beaten, or otherwise maltreated as evidenced by the treatment of a sibling.
  • The parent has been convicted of and imprisoned for a felony.
  • The parent has committed any of the following:
    • Murder or manslaughter of another child of that parent
    • Aiding, abetting, attempting, conspiring, or soliciting to commit murder or manslaughter of another child of that parent
    • A felony assault or abuse that results in serious bodily injury to the surviving child or another child of that parent
  • Unexplained serious physical injury to the child proved to be the result of the intentional conduct or willful neglect of the parent.
  • Reasonable efforts to rehabilitate the parent have failed.
  • Parental rights to a sibling of the child have been involuntarily terminated.
  • The parent has failed to provide for the material needs of the child or pay a reasonable portion of support of the child when the parent is able to do so.
  • The parent has failed to maintain regular visits with the child in accordance with a visitation plan.
  • The parent has failed to maintain consistent contact or communication with the child.
  • The parent has made little effort to adjust his or her circumstances to meet the needs of the child.
  • Significant emotional ties have developed between the child and his or her current foster parent or parents, with additional consideration given to the following factors:
    • The length of time that the child has lived in a stable and satisfactory environment
    • Whether severing the ties between the child and his or her current foster parent or parents is contrary to the best interests of the child
    • Whether the juvenile court has found at least one other ground for termination of parental rights

If a parent has been convicted of rape in the first degree, sodomy in the first degree, or incest, the juvenile court shall make a finding that the parent is unable to properly care for a child and discharge his or her responsibilities to and for a child and shall terminate the parental rights of the parent.

A rebuttable presumption that the parents are unable or unwilling to act as parents exists in any case in which the parents have abandoned a child and this abandonment continues for a period of 4 months preceding the filing of the petition.

Circumstances That Are Exceptions to Termination of Parental Rights

Citation: Ala. Code §§ 12-15-317; 12-15-319(c)

The Department of Human Resources is required to file a petition for termination of parental rights when the child has been in foster care for 12 of the most recent 22 months unless any of the following apply:

  • The child is being cared for by a relative.
  • The department has documented in the individualized service plan, which shall be available for review by the juvenile court, a compelling reason for determining that filing a petition would not be in the best interests of the child.
  • The department has not provided to the family of the child, consistent with the time period in the individualized service plan of the department, such services as the department deems necessary for the safe return of the child to his or her home, if reasonable efforts are required to be made with respect to the child.

The juvenile court is not required to consider a relative to be a candidate for legal guardian of the child in a proceeding for termination of parental rights if both of the following circumstances exist:

  • The relative did not attempt to care for the child or obtain custody of the child within 4 months of the child being removed from the custody of the parents or placed in foster care, if the removal was known to the relative.
  • The goal of the current permanency plan formulated by the department is adoption by the current foster parents.

Circumstances Allowing Reinstatement of Parental Rights

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.