Terminating Father's Rights in Michigan

By River Braun, J.D.

Terminating Father's Rights in Michigan

By River Braun, J.D.

Terminating parental rights in Michigan involves severing all legal ties to a child. A father does not have any legal responsibility to support a child financially or care for a child physically after the termination of parental rights. However, the father also loses his legal rights to make decisions regarding his child or visit his child.

Woman sitting with her arm around her daughter on the couch looking concerned

Types of Termination of a Father's Rights in Michigan

Under Michigan law, a court grants a termination of parental rights under two circumstances: for an adoption or because the child's well-being or safety is at risk. A father may voluntarily relinquish his parental rights, or a court may terminate them.

Voluntary

Voluntary termination of parental rights is not intended to allow a parent to abandon his child because he does not want to care for the child. That means a father cannot simply relinquish his parental rights to abandon his legal requirement to care for and financially provide for his child. An adoption proceeding is typically the only case in which the court permits voluntary termination.

Involuntary

The court may also choose to involuntarily terminate a father's rights under Michigan's Juvenile Code. Another party must file a legal action requesting termination of a father's legal rights based on a valid legal cause of action.

For example, following the divorce of the child's parents, a mother and stepfather may file an action seeking to terminate a father's parental rights for an adoption proceeding in which the father refuses to relinquish his legal rights voluntarily. He can object to the termination and allege that it is not in the best interest of the child to sever the parent-child relationship.

An action may also be filed with the court seeking termination of a father's legal rights based on child endangerment. In many cases, the Department of Human Services or another state agency files an action seeking to terminate parental rights based on allegations of neglect, abandonment, or abuse.

In a case for adoption or child endangerment, the party filing the petition to terminate the father's parental rights has the burden of proving that grounds exist to sever the parent-child relationship permanently.

Permanence of Terminating Parental Rights

When the court grants a request for termination of parental rights, it is permanent. In some cases, a father may have a very short time to object or withdraw consent. During this time, a father may fight the court action and may petition for a court-appointed attorney if he cannot afford one.

In some cases, a judge may issue a court-mandated plan to allow the father time to correct the circumstances that led to the action's filing. The judge bases any decision to allow a father time to correct situations on the best interests of the child. However, when this short period expires, the termination of rights is permanent.

Termination of parental rights severs all ties between the child and the father. Fathers who consider relinquishing their rights or face their involuntary termination must act quickly to prevent losing their right to make decisions affecting their child's life and to be an integral part of their child's life, if that is their desire. Failing to act quickly may result in losing all contact with a child until the child is an adult.

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