Termination of Parental Rights: Grounds and Procedure

Termination of Parental Rights: Grounds and Procedure

In South Carolina, parental rights are constitutionally protected and cannot be arbitrarily terminated without good cause or reason. In the eyes of the state, the family unit is considered to be one of the most sacred relationships, and the well-being of the child is of the utmost importance. It is generally within the best interest of the child to be in the custody of his or her family; however, there are circumstances where parental rights should be terminated and the child should be removed from the family. To terminate parental rights, it is required that there be substantial evidence to prove that the child’s well-being is better protected by their removal than by staying in the custody of his or her parents.

Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights

There are a few different grounds by which the termination of parental rights may be based. It is first and foremost an affirmative requirement by law that the parents of a child must provide the child with financial and maintenance support.

Additionally, the parents are prohibited from the following behavior with regards to their children:

  • Placing the child in a situation where he or she may be at unreasonable risk of harm which may affect the child’s physical or mental health;
  • Causing or acting in a way that unlawfully and maliciously harms the child’s person or body or acting in a way that would endanger the child’s life; and/or
  • Purposely abandoning the child.

However, South Carolina does permit a certain amount of corporal punishment or physical discipline that a parent may administer to the child, but the line is blurry as to what constitutes excessive corporal punishment. The only guidelines that may define what is permissive physical discipline state that that act against the child must be reasonable and moderate in the manner and degree that the action is taken against the child.

The Probable Cause Hearing

If a parent has been charged in acting in a way that may fall into one of the grounds on which termination of parental rights may be based, then a probable cause hearing will commence. Probable cause is supported by any facts or circumstances based on reliable information that would lead a reasonable person to believe that more likely than not the child has been subjected to harm, abuse or neglect that would warrant the child’s removal from the family home. A probable cause hearing must be scheduled within 72 hours of the emergency removal of the child so as to limit the infringement on the parents’ rights until there has been judicial intervention. Generally, the child will remain with the family unless it becomes necessary to the well-being and protection of the child; removal of the child must be supported by a showing that there was an immediate and substantial threat to the child’s life and safety.

The Burden of Proof on the State

The burden of proof put on the State for the termination of parental rights requires a showing that after all efforts have been made by the Department of Social Services to provide help and services to the family, removal is the only appropriate and reasonable way to protect the well-being and health of the child. The State must show that the child is in better hands in the custody of the State than with the family — generally, a very high burden to satisfy.

Family Law Advocates to Protect Parental Rights

Parental rights are constitutionally protected and the State has a high burden to satisfy to show that the child’s well-being is at risk while in the parent’s custody. If you live in the Mount Pleasant, Charleston, or greater South Carolina area and believe that your parental rights are at risk, please contact a family law attorney at Klok Law Firm LLC who will ensure that you receive the opportunity to be heard and to help defend your parental rights. Call or contact the office today for a confidential consultation of your case.


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