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Terminating parent child relationship in a child custody dispute

A child custody dispute in Washington State can be an onerous process. It is even harder to navigate when there is a parent whose behaviors and history make it necessary to try and have the parent-child relationship terminated. There are times, however, when this is in the best interests of the child and emotions need to be put to the side to achieve that end. Knowing the law when seeking to terminate parental rights is imperative.

To terminate a parent-child relationship, a petition can be filed in juvenile court by any party. This includes the supervising agency of the state. In order for this to be done, the child must be a dependent; the child must have been removed from the the parent's custody for a minimum of six months; there is a plan for permanent care in place; and that there is little chance that the problems necessitating the termination of rights will be resolved in the near future.

Factors regarding the parent's ability to care for the child include: drug or alcohol use leaving the parent incapable of caring for the child and a lack of willingness to have treatment to alleviate the substance abuse problems; psychological or mental issues that are chronic and severe leaving the parent incapable of caring for the child; a failure on the part of the parent to have contact with the child for an extended period if the parent had the opportunity to do so; and the belief that the relationship will not be in the best interests of the child.

In the event that a parent is unable to care for the child due to incarceration on a current or prior basis, that too can be used as evidence that the child would be better served not to have a relationship with the parent. Criminal convictions for murder, manslaughter, conspiracy and assault are all reasons for the severing of the relationship.

The courts are able to step in and award custody to the other parent or a person who is capable of providing care if the circumstances warrant it. If there is a situation in which the best interests of the child will be advanced by the termination of parental rights, it is key to discuss the matter with an attorney experienced in providing assistance in a child custody dispute.

Source: apps.leg.wa.gov, "RCW 13.34.180 Order terminating parent and child relationship - Petition - Filing - Allegations.," accessed on June 30, 2015

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