Grounds for Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights - Virginia

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Circumstances That Are Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights

Citation: Ann. Code § 16.1-283

The parental rights of a parent may be terminated if the court finds, based upon clear and convincing evidence, that it is in the best interests of the child and any of the following apply:

  • The neglect or abuse suffered by the child presented a serious and substantial threat to his or her life, health, or development.
  • It is not reasonably likely that the conditions that resulted in such neglect or abuse can be substantially corrected or eliminated to allow the child's safe return to his or her parent within a reasonable period of time, due to any of the following:
    • The parent has a mental or emotional illness or intellectual disability of such severity that there is no reasonable expectation that the parent will be able to undertake responsibility for the care needed by the child in accordance with his or her age and stage of development.
    • The parent has habitually abused or is addicted to intoxicating liquors, narcotics, or other dangerous drugs to the extent that proper parental ability has been seriously impaired.
    • The parent, without good cause, has not responded to or followed through with appropriate, available, and reasonable rehabilitative efforts on the part of social, medical, mental health, or other rehabilitative agencies designed to reduce, eliminate, or prevent the neglect or abuse of the child.
  • The parent, without good cause, has failed to maintain continuing contact with and to provide or substantially plan for the future of the child for a period of 6 months after the child's placement in foster care.
  • The parent, without good cause, has been unwilling or unable within a reasonable period of time, not to exceed 12 months from the date the child was placed in foster care, to remedy substantially the conditions that led to the child's foster care placement.

The parental rights of a parent may be terminated if the court finds, based upon clear and convincing evidence, that it is in the best interests of the child and any of the following apply:

  • The child was abandoned under such circumstances that either the identity or the whereabouts of the parent cannot be determined.
  • The child's parent, guardian, or relatives have not come forward to identify the child and claim a relationship to the child within 3 months of the child's placement in foster care.
  • Diligent efforts have been made to locate the child's parent, guardian, or relatives without avail.

The parental rights of a parent of a child who is in the custody of a local board or licensed child-placing agency may be terminated by the court if the court finds, based upon clear and convincing evidence, that it is in the best interests of the child and any of the following apply:

  • The parental rights of the parent regarding a sibling of the child have previously been involuntarily terminated.
  • The parent has been convicted of murder or voluntary manslaughter, or a felony attempt, conspiracy or solicitation to commit any such offense, if the victim of the offense was a child of the parent, a child with whom the parent resided at the time such offense occurred, or the other parent of the child.
  • The parent has been convicted of felony assault resulting in serious bodily injury, felony bodily wounding resulting in serious bodily injury, or felony sexual assault, if the victim of the offense was a child of the parent or a child with whom the parent resided at the time of such offense.
  • The parent has subjected any child to aggravated circumstances, including torture, chronic or severe abuse, or chronic or severe sexual abuse.

Circumstances That Are Exceptions to Termination of Parental Rights

Citation: Ann. Code § 16.1-283

Notwithstanding any other provisions of this section, residual parental rights shall not be terminated if it is established that the child, if he or she is age 14 or older or otherwise of an age of discretion as determined by the court, objects to such termination.

Residual parental rights of a child age 14 or older may be terminated over the objection of the child if the court finds that any disability of the child reduces the child's developmental age and that the child is not otherwise of an age of discretion.

Circumstances Allowing Reinstatement of Parental Rights

Citation: Ann. Code § 16.1-283.2

If a child is in the custody of the local department of social services and a preadoptive parent has not been identified and approved for the child, the child's guardian ad litem or the local board of social services may file a petition to restore the previously terminated parental rights of the child's parent under the following circumstances:

  • The child is at least age 14.
  • The child was previously adjudicated to be an abused or neglected child, a child in need of services, a child in need of supervision, or a delinquent child.
  • The parent's rights were terminated at least 2 years prior to the filing of the petition to restore parental rights.
  • The child has not achieved his or her permanency goal or the permanency goal was achieved but not sustained.
  • The child, if he or she is age 14 or older, and the parent whose rights are to be reinstated consent to the restoration of the parental rights.

The court may accept a petition to which the following applies:

  • It involves a child younger than age 14 if the following apply:
    • The child is the sibling of a child for whom a petition for restoration of parental rights has been filed, and the child meets all other criteria for restoration of parental rights.
    • The child's guardian ad litem and the local department jointly file the petition for restoration.
  • It is filed before the end of 2 years if the child will turn 18 before the expiration of the 2-year period, and the court finds that accepting such a petition is in the best interests of the child.

If the court finds, based upon clear and convincing evidence, that the parent is willing and able to (i) receive and care for the child; (ii) have a positive, continuous relationship with the child; (iii) provide a permanent, suitable home for the child; and (iv) protect the child from abuse and neglect, the court may enter an order permitting the local board to place the child with the former parent. The local board shall develop a written placement plan for the child that describes the programs, services, and other supports that shall be offered to the child and the former parent.

The local department shall visit the child at least three times within the 6-month period immediately following placement of the child to evaluate the suitability of the placement and the progress of the former parent toward remedying the factors and conditions that led to the child's foster care placement. Upon completion of the required visitation, the local department shall submit a written report to the court. If, upon consideration of the report, the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the restoration of parental rights is in the child's best interests, the court shall enter an order restoring the parental rights of the child's parent. In determining whether restoration is in the best interests of the child, the court shall consider the following:

  • Whether the parent whose rights are to be reinstated agrees to the reinstatement and has substantially remedied the conditions that led to the child's foster care placement
  • The age and maturity of the child and whether the child consents to the reinstatement of the former parent's rights, if the child is age 14 or older, or the child's preference with regard to the reinstatement of the former parent's rights, if the child is younger than age 14
  • Whether the restoration of parental rights will present a risk to the child's life, health, or development
  • Whether the restoration of parental rights will affect benefits available to the child
  • Other material changes in circumstances, if any, that warrant the granting of the petition