Grounds for Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights - Colorado

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Circumstances That Are Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 19-3-604

The court may order a termination of the parent-child legal relationship upon the finding, by clear and convincing evidence, of any one of the following:

  • The child has been abandoned by his or her parents.
  • The parent has been found to be unfit due to any of the following:
    • An emotional illness, a behavioral or mental health disorder, or an intellectual and developmental disability of the parent of such duration or nature as to render the parent unlikely within a reasonable time to care for the ongoing physical, mental, and emotional needs and conditions of the child
    • A single incident resulting in serious bodily injury or disfigurement of the child
    • Long-term incarceration of the parent of such duration that the parent is not eligible for parole for at least 6 years after the date the child was adjudicated dependent or neglected or, if the child is under age 6, the parent is not eligible for parole for at least 36 months
    • Serious bodily injury or death of a sibling due to proven parental abuse or neglect
    • An identifiable pattern of habitual abuse
    • An identifiable pattern of sexual abuse of the child
    • The torture of or extreme cruelty to the child, a sibling of the child, or another child of either parent
  • The parent has not attended visitations with the child as set forth in the treatment plan unless good cause can be shown for failing to visit.
  • The parent exhibits the same problems addressed in the treatment plan without adequate improvement.
  • The parent is unfit, and the conduct or condition of the parent is unlikely to change within a reasonable time.

In determining unfitness, the court shall consider, but not be limited to, the following:

  • Conduct toward the child of a physically or sexually abusive nature
  • History of violent behavior
  • A single incident of life-threatening or serious bodily injury or disfigurement of the child
  • Excessive use of intoxicating liquors or controlled substances that affects the ability to care and provide for the child
  • Neglect of the child
  • Injury or death of a sibling due to proven parental abuse or neglect, murder, voluntary manslaughter, or circumstances in which a parent aided, abetted, or attempted the commission of or conspired or solicited to commit murder of a child's sibling
  • Reasonable efforts by child-caring agencies that have been unable to rehabilitate the parent or parents
  • Prior involvement with the Department of Human Services concerning an incident of abuse or neglect involving the child followed by a subsequent incident of abuse or neglect
  • Felony assault committed by a parent that resulted in serious bodily injury to the child or to another child of the parent
  • That the child has been in foster care under the responsibility of the county department for 15 of the most recent 22 months
  • Whether, on two or more occasions, a child in the physical custody of the parent has been adjudicated dependent or neglected
  • Whether, on one or more prior occasions, a parent has had his or her parent-child legal relationship terminated with another child

Circumstances That Are Exceptions to Termination of Parental Rights

Citation: Rev. Stat. §§ 19-3-604; 19-3-702(4)(e)

A petition to terminate parental rights will be filed when the child has been in foster care for 15 of the most recent 22 months unless any of the following apply:

  • The child is placed with a relative of the child.
  • The department has documented in the case plan that such motion would not be in the best interests of the child.
  • Reasonable efforts to reunify the child with the parent, as identified in the case plan, have not been provided.
  • The child has been in foster care under the responsibility of the county department for such period of time due to circumstances beyond the control of the parent, such as incarceration of the parent for a reasonable period of time, court delays or continuances that are not attributable to the parent, or such other reasonable circumstances that the court finds are beyond the control of the parent.

The county Department of Human or Social Services may not be required to petition for termination of parental rights when the following apply:

  • The parents or guardians have maintained regular parenting time and contact with the child, and the child would benefit from continuing this relationship.
  • A child who is age 12 or older objects to the termination of the parent-child legal relationship.
  • The child's foster parents are unable to adopt the child because of exceptional circumstances, but are willing and capable of providing the child with a stable and permanent environment, and the removal of the child from the physical custody of his or her foster parents would be seriously detrimental to the emotional well-being of the child.
  • The criteria for termination have not yet been met.

Circumstances Allowing Reinstatement of Parental Rights

Citation: Rev. Stat. § 19-3-612

The general assembly finds that, for various reasons, some children are not adopted after the termination or voluntary relinquishment of the parent-child legal relationship and in some cases might benefit from a reinstatement of the parent-child legal relationship if the former parent has remediated the issues that led to the termination or voluntary relinquishment. Reinstatement is a recognition that the situation of the former parent and child has changed since the time of the termination of parental rights, and reunification is now appropriate and in the best interests of the child.

A county department or the child's guardian ad litem may file a petition to reinstate the parent-child legal relationship if the following apply:

  • The child is age 12 or older or is part of a sibling group.
  • Both the child and the former parent consent to the reinstatement of the relationship.
  • The child does not have a legal parent, is not in an adoptive placement, is not likely to be adopted within a reasonable period of time, and other permanency options have been exhausted.
  • The child is in the legal custody of a county department.
  • The parent's rights were terminated at least 3years before the filing of the petition.
  • The dependency action did not involve substantiated allegations of sexual abuse, egregious abuse or neglect against a child, a near fatality, or a suspicious fatality or near fatality.

A child who is age 16 or older, or his or her guardian ad litem, also may file a petition to reinstate the parent-child legal relationship if the conditions listed above can be met.

At the initial hearing, the court shall consider and make findings about the following conditions for pursuing a reinstatement of parental rights:

  • Whether the conditions for filing the petition listed above have been established by clear and convincing evidence
  • Whether the child is of a sufficient age and maturity to be able to express his or her preference about the reinstatement
  • Whether the former parent has remedied the conditions that led to the child's removal and termination of parental rights
  • What temporary transition services would be needed by the child and the former parent to have a successful reinstatement
  • Whether the former parent can provide a safe and stable home for the child
  • Whether the former parent has participated in an assessment that concludes that reinstatement of parental rights is in the best interests of the child

If the court finds that it is in the best interests of the child to pursue reinstatement of the parent-child legal relationship, the court must approve a transition plan developed by the county department and designed for reinstatement of the parent-child legal relationship, including visitation or placement of the child with the former parent for a trial period of up to 6 months, during which time legal custody of the child remains with the county department.

An order reinstating the parent-child legal relationship restores all rights, powers, privileges, immunities, duties, and obligations of the former parent as to the child, including those relating to custody, control, and support of the child. The granting of a petition for reinstatement of the parent-child legal relationship for one former parent does not restore or otherwise impact the rights or legal status of the other former parent.