Can You Stop the Termination of Parental Rights While in Prison?

Can You Stop the Termination of Parental Rights While in Prison?

Sometimes. When you go to prison, life on the outside doesn’t stop. The lives of your friends and family continue. There may be changes — they may visit you, call you and miss you. But their responsibilities continue. And so do yours. That’s especially true when it comes to parenting. Even when you’re in prison, you must take care of your kids. If you don’t, the government may try to terminate your parental rights. What can you do to stop the termination of your parental rights while in prison?

Can your parental rights get terminated while you’re in prison?

Yes. If you’re sentenced to a lengthy prison term, the government may try to terminate your parental rights. What the government must prove to terminate parental rights depends on the laws in each state. Under federal law, if your children spend more than 15 months out of a 22-month period in foster care, the government can seek termination. But time isn’t the only relevant factor when it comes to the termination of parental rights.

If you’re convicted of more serious crimes or if your criminal actions involved minors, the government can seek termination as well. When the government seeks to end your rights as a parent, they have to prove that it’s in the best interest of the children. When deciding whether that’s the case, courts consider everything involved.

Can you stop the termination of your parental rights while in prison?

Yes. There are many things you can do to keep your parental rights in prison. The most important thing you can do is the most obvious: take care of your children. If you’re going to prison, make sure your children will be taken care of while you’re away. This means finding a friend or family member that they can live with and receive care from. It also means providing resources for them ahead of time.

While you’re in prison, you also want to stay in touch with your kids. Most of the time, your children can visit you in prison in person. You can also write back and forth and talk on the phone with them on a regular basis. Making these efforts show your commitment to care for your children — even from behind bars. And it’s important for your kids, too.

You can help prevent the termination of your parental rights by staying in touch with your children.
Image courtesy of Riichiro Akazaki via

Can you do anything after release to get your parental rights back?

Probably not. If a court terminates your parental rights while you were in prison, you likely can’t do anything to get them back after your release. Most states do not allow you to get your rights as a parent back if a court has terminated them. The same is true if someone adopted your children, too. There are some exceptions to these rules, such as where there was fraud, duress or coercion. But these exceptions don’t apply often.

In some states, though, you can have your rights restored in certain circumstances. In most of them, one of the key factors is the child’s wishes. If the child wants you to be their parent again, courts might consider reunification. This usually also requires proof that the parent has improved their life. It requires that the parent be able to care for the child as well.

The Takeaway:

If you go to prison, there’s a chance your parental rights will be terminated. You can take steps to prevent it by caring for your children while you’re away. But the government make still seek termination. If there is a termination of parental rights while in prison, you may not be able to do anything after release to get your rights back.

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