Divorce cases and child custody determinations are some of the most emotionally stressful legal issues anyone can face. Whether you and your spouse are ending your marriage and must determine custody of your children, or you are an unmarried parent who needs a court-ordered custody agreement with your child’s co-parent, these legal proceedings are likely to be some of the most difficult challenges of your life. Generally, the family court system of Kansas City, MO, strives to ensure a child has equal access to both their parents. Most expert studies on child development report that children thrive best when they grow up with their parents close to them. However, the Kansas City family court system may strip a parent of their parental rights if they prove themselves to be a danger to their child.

Involuntary termination of parental rights is an extreme measure only taken when a family court judge has strong reason to believe they must protect a child from the child’s own parent. If a parent is proven to be a danger to their child in any way, the court will terminate the parent’s parental rights and will likely prohibit the parent from contacting the child. The court may also take other punitive actions against a parent for repeated, willful custody agreement violations. If you believe your custody order is unreasonable in any way, it is always best to petition for modification rather than willfully violate the terms of the order.

Never Violate a Child Custody Agreement

If you have a custody order from the Kansas City, MO, family court, you must abide by the terms of your agreement to the letter. While life can be unpredictable and pose unexpected challenges at times, any events that interfere with your ability to follow your custody order should be addressed through the appropriate channels. Most parents who have custody orders can handle isolated incidents with relative ease as long as they communicate effectively. For example, suppose your custody order requires you to pick up your children from their other parent or drop them off at a predetermined time. In that case, some unexpected issue could prevent you from fulfilling this obligation. However, if you notify the other parent and make your best effort to meet your obligations, the other parent should be understanding of this.

Isolated incidents like these are one thing, but a parent’s repeated intentional violations of their custody order would be another issue entirely. Violating a child custody agreement can lead to severe penalties, including contempt of court. If you believe your child’s other parent has repeatedly and knowingly violated the terms of your custody agreement, it’s vital to consult your attorney as soon as possible. Filing contempt proceedings against them will compel a Kansas City family court judge to rule on the issue and determine an appropriate penalty for the parent in violation.

Contempt proceedings could lead to modification of the parents’ custody order. For example, suppose the parent in violation has repeatedly refused to drop their children off with the other parent at required times. In that case, the other parent could file contempt proceedings, and the judge will alter their custody agreement. When it comes to involuntary termination of parental rights, Kansas City family court judges typically reserve this penalty for extreme circumstances.

How Can Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights Come Into Play?

A Kansas City family court judge is only likely to consider involuntary termination of parental rights when a parent has proven themselves to be unfit for handling custody rights or a clear danger to their children. Some examples of factors that may spur a judge to consider involuntary termination of parental rights include:

  • Child abuse. If a parent has intentionally abused their child in any way, the parent may face involuntary termination of their parental rights and criminal prosecution. Crimes against children are prosecuted very harshly in Kansas City, MO, and severe incidents of abuse or prolonged patterns of child abuse can lead to many years in prison.
  • Neglect. Parents are expected to provide for their children’s basic living needs, including food, shelter, clothing, and access to education and medical care. If a parent consistently fails to provide their child with basic living needs, a judge is likely to terminate their parental rights for being an unfit parent.
  • Serious risk of harm to the child. If a judge determines that a child faces a significant risk of severe physical harm if returned to the parent in question, the judge is likely to terminate that parent’s parental rights and grant sole custody to the child’s other parent.
  • Abandonment. If a parent has not had any contact with their child and has made no effort to contact their child for more than six months, this constitutes abandonment and grounds to terminate the parent’s parental rights.
  • Failure to adjust. If Child Protective Services (CPS) has removed a child from their parent’s home, the parent was likely instructed what they need to do to regain custody of their child. If the parent fails to adjust to these requirements, they may not regain custody.

These are just a few examples of how a parent may lose their parental rights. Once a judge has initiated the involuntary termination of a parent’s rights, it is challenging for the parent to regain any measure of custody or visitation. Involuntary termination of parental rights generally means that the parent no longer has the right to raise their child, no right to visit or communicate with their child, and that a parent-child relationship no longer legally exists. Another parent may then adopt the child, and the parent who lost their parental rights may be removed from the child’s birth certificate. It is important to note that involuntary termination of parental rights will also end the child’s support obligation.

In most cases, Kansas City, MO, family court judges will only consider involuntary termination of parental rights when a parent is unfit and potentially dangerous to their child. Therefore, if you are concerned about your child’s safety regarding the child’s other parent, it is crucial to consult your Kansas City family law attorney about your concerns and determine the best steps you can take to ensure your child’s safety. An experienced Kansas City family law attorney is the best resource you can have when facing tough questions regarding your child custody agreement.