I get this question fairly often. It is usually from a mother who also says that the father has no contact with the child at all and he hasn’t paid any child support. Often, there is a comment that the father is in jail for some reason or another, and perhaps there is an order of protection for both the mother and child to keep the father away.
I’m not entirely sure why they want the father’s parental rights terminated. If the father is not in the picture at all, then he is not a problem to either the mother or the child.
If the mother wants to make sure that she is the only one making any decisions for the child, she can always file for full legal and physical custody with no visitation, or very limited, or only supervised visitation from the father allowed. If the father is really as absent as the mother says, he is not likely to argue against her and it is likely that the court will award her full custody. If the father is actually in the picture, but a detriment to the child, then the court may order only supervised or no visitation with the child.
If the father objects to the full custody being given to the mother, he can argue that in court and the court will make a determination based on the best interests of the child. The Commonwealth of Virginia is interested in doing what is best for the child, not supporting one side in an argument between the parents.
Also, so long as the father is the legal father, the mother can be awarded child support which must be paid by the father. If the father does not pay his court ordered child support, he might be put in jail for that failure. Again, not really a problem for a mother who apparently does not even like her child’s father.
If the mother is married to someone who is not the child’s father and she wants to have her new husband adopt the child, a step-parent adoption process can be followed which will end up as a sort of termination of the father’s parental rights when the father agrees to the adoption, or if the adoption is approved without the father’s consent.
There is also the situation where the mother wants to terminate a father’s parental rights because the mother is receiving social services and they have told her that they will go to court to have the father ordered to repay the public funds as child support. The mother wants to receive the funds, but she does not want the father to have to pay. And yes, sometimes the father is living in the home with the mother and the children.
The Commonwealth of Virginia has determined that it is the obligation of both parents to provide for their children.
So the short answer to the question of whether you can terminate your child’s father’s parental rights is generally ‘no’.
If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at http://www.BeaversLaw.com.