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Legal Information: Alabama

Custody

Laws current as of September 1, 2023

Aside from a conviction for a sex crime, are there other circumstances when parental rights can be terminated?

Aside from being convicted of a sex crime, a parent’s parental rights can be terminated if the judge finds that s/he is unable or unwilling to carry out parental responsibilities for the child, or if the parent’s conduct or condition makes him/her unable to properly care for the child. As in all custody cases, this decision must be made considering the child’s best interests.1

If the other parent has abandoned the child for four months, there is what’s called a “rebuttable presumption” that s/he is unable or unwilling to act as the child’s parent.2 This means that the judge will assume that this is true but the parent being accused of abandoning the child will have the chance to present evidence to change the judge’s mind at a court hearing.2

During a termination hearing, the judge will consider the following factors:

  1. whether the parent abandoned the child;
  2. any emotional illness, mental illness, mental deficiency, or excessive use of alcohol or drugs that makes the parent unable to care for the child;
  3. whether the parent has committed or attempted to commit any of the following, or if the child is in clear and present danger of suffering from any of the following:
    1. torture;
    2. abuse;
    3. being cruelly beaten; or
    4. being otherwise maltreated;
  4. whether the parent has been convicted of, and imprisoned for, a felony;
  5. whether the parent has committed any of the following:
    1. the murder or manslaughter of another child;
    2. aiding, abetting, conspiring, or soliciting the murder or manslaughter of another child; or
    3. felony assault or abuse that results in serious bodily injury to another child;
  6. whether the child has suffered serious physical injury in circumstances that indicate that the injury resulted from the parent’s intentional actions or willful neglect;
  7. whether there have been reasonable efforts by the Department of Human Resources or a child care agency to rehabilitate the parent;
  8. whether the parent’s parental rights to the child’s sibling have been involuntarily terminated;
  9. whether the parent has failed to provide for the child’s material needs, or to pay a reasonable portion of child support;
  10. whether the parent has failed to maintain regular visits with the child under a plan created by the Department of Human Resources or a child care agency;
  11. whether the parent has maintained consistent contact or communications with the child;
  12. whether the parent has tried to adjust his/her circumstances to meet the needs of the child according to an agreement made with the Department of Human resources or a child care agency; and
  13. whether the child has developed significant emotional ties to current foster parents, including:
    1. how long the child has lived in a stable and satisfactory environment;
    2. whether cutting the child’s ties with current foster parents goes against the child’s best interests; and
    3. whether the judge has found at least one other reason for terminating the abuser’s parental rights.1

1 Alabama Code § 12-15-319(a)
2 Alabama Code § 12-15-319(d)