Legal Information: Alabama


February 11, 2022

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

Aside from being convicted for a sex crime, an abuser’s parental rights can also be terminated if the judge finds that the abuser is unable or unwilling to carry out parental responsibilities for the child, or if the abuser’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 abuser has abandoned the child for four months, there is what’s called a “rebuttable presumption” that the abuser is unable or unwilling to act as the child’s parent.2 This means that the judge will assume that the abuser cannot act as the parent, but the abuser 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 abuser abandoned the child;
  2. any emotional illness, mental illness, mental deficiency, or excessive use of alcohol or drugs that makes the abuser unable to care for the child;
  3. whether the abuser has done/attempted to do any of the following, or if the child is in clear and present danger of suffering from:
    1. torture;
    2. abuse;
    3. being cruelly beaten; or
    4. being otherwise maltreated;
  4. whether the abuser has been convicted of, and imprisoned for, a felony;
  5. whether the abuser 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 abuser’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 abuser as a parent that have failed;
  8. whether the abuser’s parental rights to the child’s sibling have been involuntarily terminated;
  9. whether the abuser has failed to provide for the child’s material needs, or to pay a reasonable portion of child support;
  10. whether the abuser 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 abuser has maintained consistent contact or communications with the child;
  12. whether the abuser 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)

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