Grounds for Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights - Massachusetts

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Circumstances That Are Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights

Citation: Ann. Laws Ch. 119, §§ 26, 29C; Ch. 210, § 3

The Department of Children and Families shall file a petition to terminate parental rights under the following circumstances:

  • The child has been abandoned.
  • The parent has been convicted of the murder or voluntary manslaughter of another child of the parent; of aiding, abetting, attempting, conspiring, or soliciting to commit such murder or voluntary manslaughter; or of a felony assault that resulted in serious bodily injury to the child or to another child of the parent.
  • The child has been in foster care for 15 of the immediately preceding 22 months.

In determining whether such action is in the best interests of the child, the court shall consider the ability, capacity, fitness, and readiness of the child's parent. In considering the fitness of the child's parent, the court shall consider, without limitation, the following factors:

  • The child has been abused or neglected as a result of the acts or omissions of one or both parents; the parents were offered services and have been unable to make a substantial change in the circumstances that led to the abuse or neglect.
  • The child has been in the custody of the department for at least 6 months, and the parents have not maintained significant and meaningful contact with the child.
  • The child is age 4 or older and has been in an out-of-home placement for at least 12 of the immediately preceding 15 months, and the child cannot be returned home.
  • The child is younger than age 4 and has been in an out-of-home placement for at least 6 of the immediately preceding 12 months and cannot be returned home.
  • The parent, without excuse, fails to provide proper care for the child, and there is a reasonable expectation that the parent will not be able to provide proper care within a reasonable time.
  • Because of the lengthy absence of the parent or the parent's inability to meet the needs of the child, the child has formed a strong, positive bond with a substitute caregiver; the removal of the child from the caregiver would likely cause serious psychological harm to the child; and the parent lacks the capacity to meet the special needs of the child upon removal.
  • There has been a lack of effort by the parent to remedy conditions that create a risk of harm due to abuse or neglect of the child.
  • There has been severe or repetitive conduct of a physically, emotionally, or sexually abusive or neglectful nature toward the child or toward another child in the home.
  • The parent has willfully failed to visit the child when the child has not been in his or her custody.
  • The parent has willfully failed to support the child when the child has not been in his or her custody. Failure to support shall mean that the parent or other person has failed to make a material contribution to the child's care when the contribution has been requested by the department or ordered by the court.
  • The parent suffers from a condition that is reasonably likely to continue for a prolonged, indeterminate period, such as alcohol or drug addiction or mental deficiency or mental illness, and the condition makes the parent unlikely to provide minimally acceptable care for the child.
  • The parent has been convicted of a felony that the court finds is of such a nature that the child will be deprived of a stable home for a period of years. Incarceration in and of itself shall not be grounds for termination of parental rights.
  • There has been a prior pattern of parental neglect or misconduct or a felony assault that resulted in serious bodily injury to the child, and a likelihood of future harm to the child exists based on such prior pattern or assault.

Circumstances That Are Exceptions to Termination of Parental Rights

Citation: Ann. Laws Ch. 119, § 26

The department need not file a petition to terminate parental rights if the following apply:

  • The child is being cared for by a relative.
  • The department has documented in the case plan a compelling reason for determining that terminating the parents' rights would not be in the best interests of the child.
  • The family of the child has not been provided, consistent with the time period in the case plan, such services as the department deems necessary for the safe return of the child to the child's home if reasonable efforts as set forth in § 29C are required to be made with respect to the child.

Circumstances Allowing Reinstatement of Parental Rights

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.