Grounds for Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights - Georgia

Date: July 2021

Circumstances That Are Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 15-11-310; 15-11-311

In considering the termination of parental rights, the court shall first determine whether one of the following statutory grounds for termination of parental rights has been met:

  • The parent has subjected his or her child to aggravated circumstances.
  • The parent has willfully failed to comply with a decree to support his or her child for 12 months or longer.
  • A child is abandoned by his or her parent.
  • A child is dependent due to lack of proper parental care or control by his or her parent, reasonable efforts to remedy the circumstances have been unsuccessful or were not required, the cause of dependency is likely to continue or will not likely be remedied, and either of the following are true:
    • Returning such child to his or her parent is likely to cause serious physical, mental, moral, or emotional harm or threaten the child's physical safety or well-being.
    • Continuation of the parent and child relationship will cause or is likely to cause serious physical, mental, moral, or emotional harm to the child.

If any of the statutory grounds for termination has been met, the court shall then consider whether termination is in a child's best interests, with consideration of the following:

  • The child's sense of attachments, including his or her sense of security and familiarity
  • The child's wishes and long-term goals
  • The child's need for permanence, stability, and continuity of relationships with a parent, siblings, and other relatives
  • Any benefit to the child of being integrated into a stable and permanent home and the likely effect of delaying such integration
  • The detrimental impact of the lack of a stable and permanent home environment on such child's safety, well-being, or physical, mental, or emotional health
  • Any other factors considered by the court to be relevant

In determining whether a child is without proper parental care and control, the court shall consider, without being limited to, the following:

  • The parent is unable to provide adequately for his or her child due a medically verified deficiency of his or her physical, mental, or emotional health.
  • The parent is incapable of providing adequately for the physical, mental, emotional, or moral needs of his or her child due to the excessive use of or history of chronic unrehabilitated substance abuse.
  • The parent has been convicted and incarcerated for an offense that has a demonstrably negative effect on the quality of the parent-child relationship, including, but not limited to, any of the following:
    • Murder or manslaughter of another child of the parent or the child's other parent
    • Aiding, abetting, attempting, conspiring, or soliciting to commit murder or manslaughter of another child the parent or the child's other parent
    • A felony assault that results in serious bodily injury to the child or another child of the parent
  • The parent has engaged in egregious conduct of a physically, emotionally, or sexually cruel or abusive nature toward his or her child or toward another child of the parent.
  • The parent inflicted physical, mental, or emotional neglect on his or her child or another child of the parent.
  • The parent caused serious bodily injury or death of a sibling of the child under circumstances that indicate that such injury or death resulted from parental neglect or abuse.

The court also shall consider whether the parent, without justifiable cause, has failed significantly for a period of 6 months prior to the date of the termination hearing to do the following:

  • To develop and maintain a parental bond with his or her child in a meaningful, supportive manner
  • To provide for the care and support of his or her child as required by law or judicial decree
  • To comply with a court-ordered plan designed to reunite the parent with his or her child

Circumstances That Are Exceptions to Termination of Parental Rights

Citation: Ann. Code § 15-11-311(c)

A parent's reliance on prayer or other religious nonmedical means for healing in lieu of medical care, in the exercise of religious beliefs, shall not be the sole basis for determining a parent to be unwilling or unable to provide safety and care adequate to meet his or her child's physical, emotional, and mental health needs or as depriving such child of proper parental care or control.

Circumstances Allowing Reinstatement of Parental Rights

Citation: Ann. Code § 15-11-323

A child who has not been adopted for at least 3 years from the date the court terminated parental rights and for whom the court has determined that adoption is no longer the permanency plan may petition the court to reinstate parental rights. The child may file the petition to reinstate parental rights sooner than 3 years if the Department of Human Services or licensed child-placing agency that has custody of the child stipulates that the child is no longer likely to be adopted. A child who is age 14 or older shall sign the petition in the absence of a showing of good cause as to why the child could not do so.

The court shall grant the petition if it finds by clear and convincing evidence that a child is no longer likely to be adopted and that reinstatement of parental rights is in the child's best interests. In determining whether reinstatement is in the child's best interests the court shall consider, but not be limited to, the following:

  • Whether a parent whose rights are to be reinstated is a fit parent and has remedied his or her deficits as provided in the record of the prior termination proceedings and prior termination order
  • The age and maturity of the child and the ability of the child to express his or her preference
  • Whether the reinstatement of parental rights will present a risk to a child's health, welfare, or safety
  • Other material changes in circumstances, if any, that may have occurred that warrant the granting of the petition

An order granted under this section reinstates a parent's rights to his or her child. Such reinstatement shall be a recognition that the situation of the parent and his or her child has changed since the time of the termination of parental rights and reunification is now appropriate.