Grounds for Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights - Washington

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Circumstances That Are Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights

Citation: Rev. Code §§ 13.34.132; 13.34.180

A court may order termination of parental rights if the following requirements are met:

  • The court has removed the child from his or her home.
  • Termination is recommended by the Department of Children, Youth, and Families.
  • Termination is in the best interests of the child.
  • Because of the existence of aggravated circumstances, reasonable efforts to unify the family are not required.

In determining whether aggravated circumstances exist by clear and convincing evidence, the court shall consider one or more of the following:

  • Conviction of the parent of rape of the child
  • Conviction of the parent of criminal mistreatment of the child
  • Conviction of the parent of first- or second-degree assault, when the child is the victim
  • Conviction of the parent of murder, manslaughter, or homicide by abuse of the child's other parent, sibling, or another child
  • Conviction of the parent of attempting, soliciting, or conspiring to commit a crime listed above
  • A finding by a court that a parent is a sexually violent predator
  • Failure of the parent to complete available treatment, when such failure has resulted in a prior termination of parental rights to another child and the parent has failed to effect significant change in the interim
  • Abandonment of an infant younger than age 3
  • Conviction of the parent of a sex offense or incest, when a child has been born of the offense

A petition seeking termination of parental rights may be filed by any party to the dependency proceedings concerning that child. Such petition shall allege all the following:

  • The child has been found to be a dependent child under a dispositional order pursuant to § 13.34.130.
  • The child has been removed from the custody of the parent for at least 6 months.
  • Services capable of correcting the parental deficiencies have been expressly and understandably offered or provided.
  • There is little likelihood that conditions will be remedied so that the child can be returned to the parent in the near future. A parent's failure to substantially improve parental deficiencies within 12 months following entry of the dispositional order shall give rise to a rebuttable presumption that there is little likelihood that conditions will be remedied so that the child can be returned to the parent in the near future. In determining whether the conditions will be remedied, the court may consider, but is not limited to, the following factors:
    • Use of intoxicating or controlled substances that renders the parent incapable of providing proper care for the child for extended time
    • Psychological incapacity or mental deficiency of the parent that is so severe and chronic as to render the parent incapable of providing proper care for the child for extended periods of time
    • Failure of the parent to have contact with the child for an extended period of time if the parent was provided an opportunity to have a relationship with the child
  • Continuation of the parent and child relationship clearly diminishes the child's prospects for early integration into a stable and permanent home.

In lieu of the allegations listed above, the petition may allege that the child was found under such circumstances that the whereabouts of the child's parent are unknown, and no person has acknowledged paternity or maternity and requested custody of the child within 2 months after the child was found.

In lieu of the allegations listed above, the petition may allege that the parent has been convicted of any of the following:

  • Murder or manslaughter against another child of the parent
  • Attempting, conspiring, or soliciting another to commit murder or manslaughter
  • Assault in the first or second degree against the surviving child or another child of the parent

Circumstances That Are Exceptions to Termination of Parental Rights

Citation: Rev. Code § 13.34.180

A parent's failure to remedy conditions for 12 months shall give rise to a presumption that there is little likelihood of reunification unless it is shown that all necessary services have not been clearly offered or provided.

The actual inability of a parent to have visitation with the child, including, but not limited to, mitigating circumstances such as a parent's current or prior incarceration or service in the military, does not in and of itself constitute failure to have contact with the child.

If the parent is incarcerated, the court shall consider whether a parent maintains a meaningful role in his or her child's life based on factors identified in § 13.34.145(4)(b); whether the department made reasonable efforts as defined in this chapter; and whether particular barriers existed as described in § 13.34.145(4)(b), including, but not limited to, delays or barriers experienced in keeping the department apprised of the parent's location and in accessing visitation or other meaningful contact with the child.

The court may consider the particular constraints of a parent's current or prior incarceration. Such evidence may include, but is not limited to, delays or barriers a parent may experience in keeping the department apprised of his or her location and in accessing visitation or other meaningful contact with the child. When a parent has been sentenced to a long-term incarceration and has maintained a meaningful role in the child's life considering the factors provided in § 13.34.145(4)(b), and it is in the best interests of the child, the department should consider a permanent placement that allows the parent to maintain a relationship with his or her child, such as, but not limited to, a guardianship pursuant to chapter 13.36.

Circumstances Allowing Reinstatement of Parental Rights

Citation: Rev. Code § 13.34.215

A child may petition the court to reinstate the previously terminated parental rights of his or her parent if the following apply:

  • The child was previously found to be a dependent child and the child's parent's rights were terminated.
  • The child has not achieved his or her permanency plan.
  • Three years have passed since the final order of termination was entered.
  • The child is at least age 12 at the time the petition is filed.

If, after a threshold hearing to consider the parent's apparent fitness and interest in reinstatement of parental rights, the court finds that the best interests of the child may be served by reinstatement of parental rights, the court shall order that a hearing on the merits of the petition be held. The court shall conditionally grant the petition if it finds that the child has not achieved his or her permanency plan, is not likely to imminently achieve permanency, 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 is not limited to, the following:

  • Whether the parent is a fit parent and has remedied the deficiencies that led to the termination
  • The child's age, maturity, and ability to express a preference
  • Whether the reinstatement of parental rights will present a risk to the child's health, welfare, or safety
  • Other material changes in circumstances, if any, that may have occurred that warrant the granting of the petition

If the court conditionally grants the petition, the child shall be placed in the custody of the parent, and the department shall develop a plan for reunification and provide transition services to the family as appropriate.

If the child has been successfully placed with the parent for 6 months, the court order reinstating parental rights remains in effect and the court shall dismiss the dependency.