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Criminal Conduct & Terminating Parental Rights

Recently, the South Carolina Court of Appeals issued an opinion that concerned the termination of parental rights for a parent who had been incarcerated before and after a child’s birth. A lower court had found that a biological father’s time in jail constituted abandonment of his child. Under South Carolina law, abandonment is one of the grounds a court considers when terminating parental rights. However, the Court of Appeals reversed this decision because the father had voluntarily given himself up to police. Additionally, there were several other factors that influenced the court’s decision to reverse the ruling of the lower court.

How can past criminal conduct impact my parental rights?

Many issues in a family court are judged by a collection of factors. The severity, timing, and nature of criminal conduct could all play a role in a court’s decision to terminate parental rights. In some cases, such as murder or voluntary manslaughter of the child’s other parent or felonious assault, the South Carolina Department of Social Services is required to petition the family court for termination of parental rights.

However, some criminal conduct may not necessarily mean that the rights of a parent will be terminated. In the recent Court of Appeals decision, the court ruled that criminal behavior before a child’s conception may have little impact on termination grounds of abandonment. In all likelihood, if there are two fit parents and one has a recent criminal history, the judge may award custody to the parent with a clean record. A criminal record in and of itself does not completely bar a parent from obtaining custody or maintaining their parental rights.

How can my parental rights be terminated in South Carolina?

The South Carolina Code outlines several reasons a parent’s rights may be terminated. These include the harm of a child, neglect, and willful failure to visit or willful abandonment of a child. Other grounds for termination include having a disease or disorder (including drug addiction and alcoholism) that prevents the parent from providing adequate care to their child.

After both biological parent’s rights are terminated, the child becomes legally eligible for adoption. After parental rights have been terminated, the Department of Social Services is required to develop a plan within 30 days indicating a plan for permanent placement of the child. A court in South Carolina will only terminate a parent's rights if the court determines that there is a legitimate cause for termination, and that terminating parental rights will serve the best interests of a child.

Get Help Today

The attorneys at Surasky Law have experience in a wide range of cases involving child custody. We can help protect your rights and ensure that the best interests of your child are protected. Whether you are in Aiken, the surrounding area or elsewhere in South Carolina, we can help determine the best arrangement for your family.

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