If my ex goes to prison, can I terminate their parental rights? 

On Behalf of | Aug 17, 2021 | Family Law |

Maybe you always thought your ex-spouse would end up in prison, or maybe their incarceration took you entirely by surprise. Now, you’re questioning whether you should ask the court to terminate their parental rights.

Judges must take into consideration a multitude of factors when considering the involuntary termination of parental rights in Pennsylvania. Going to prison does not automatically terminate a parent’s rights. (Conversely, it does not protect them from having their rights terminated, either.) Let’s take a closer look at some factors that judges look at when making this difficult decision. 

Factors the court may consider

Being locked up is only one factor that judges will consider in this situation. The following are some additional factors that judges may take into account: 

  • Efforts to maintain a child-parent relationship: If the incarcerated parent is actively taking affirmative steps to maintain their relationship with their child, a judge may not terminate their parental rights. Does the incarcerated parent write letters and make regular phone calls to the child?
  • Existing parent-child bonds: What kind of relationship does the child have with their parent today? What was it prior to incarceration? If the child is old enough to answer on their own, the judge may also ask the child how they feel about their incarcerated parent.
  • What available resources the parent uses: If the incarcerated parent is taking advantage of resources available in the prison system to become a better parent, the judge may look upon this favorably. Taking parenting classes, drug counseling and reintegration classes may show that the parent has full intentions of becoming a better parent.

There are many reasons that a judge may approve or deny a petition to involuntarily terminate someone’s parental rights. Other factors include the nature of their charges, the length of their sentence, their disciplinary record while being locked up and the presence of a solid plan for housing and employment upon release. Because every family legal issue is unique, it’s often best to discuss the specifics of your situation with someone who has experience in this area. 

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