If you are a parent who is behind on your child support payments, you may be wondering if you could lose your parental rights as a result. The answer to that question is not straightforward, as the laws governing this area vary from state to state.
In the state of Georgia, failure to pay child support will not automatically terminate your parental rights. There are a number of factors that courts will consider when deciding whether to terminate parental rights due to non-payment of child support. We will explore the termination of parental rights in Georgia and provide guidance on when it may be appropriate to do so.
If you are behind on your child support payments, it is crucial to seek legal assistance from a family law attorney so you can understand your options and protect your parental rights.
What does termination of parental rights mean?
In the United States, a court can terminate parental rights for various reasons. Termination of parental rights is the legal process by which a parent’s legal relationship with their child is severed. In Georgia, the termination of parental rights (TPR) means that legal custody and guardianship of a child is permanently transferred from one or both parents to another party, most often a relative or the state.
The most common reason for termination is abuse or neglect of the child, but other grounds may include felony convictions, drug abuse, or abandonment. This can be done voluntarily, through abandonment or neglect, or involuntarily through a court order. Once parental rights are terminated, the parent no longer has any legal obligations or responsibilities to the child. While this may seem harsh, in some cases, it may be necessary to protect the child from an abusive or neglectful situation.
Suppose the Court is considering terminating your parental rights. In that case, it is essential to consult with an experienced family law attorney to ensure that you understand all of the implications and potential outcomes of this ruling by the Court.
Yes, Failure to Pay Child Support Can Lead to Termination of Parental Rights
A parent’s rights can be terminated for failure to pay child support. The basis for termination of parental rights in the state of Georgia is found in OCGA § 19-7-15, which states that the court may order such termination if the parent has failed to discharge their duties for six consecutive months and has not paid child support “wanton and willful[ly] without a reasonable excuse” during that time.
The court may also find that termination is in the child’s best interests based on the totality of the circumstances. Penalties one can incur from a failure to pay child support include denial of passport applications, suspension of driver’s, hunting and fishing licenses, contempt citations and sanctions, and even possible incarceration.
If you are facing termination of parental rights due to non-payment of child support, you must speak with an experienced family law attorney who can help you protect your rights.
What are other reasons for the termination of parental rights?
There are a variety of reasons why parental rights may be terminated. Some of the most common reasons include:
- Incarcerated for more than three years, a conviction of a felony.
- Failure to discharge parental duties in a year or longer before filing, such as failure to develop a relationship with the child, failure to provide for the child as determined by the law, misconduct or inability to care for the child
- Neglect, abuse, or abandonment that cannot be remedied and will result in long-term harm to the child
- Death of sibling as resulting from abuse or neglect
- If the parent is found unfit to care for the child
- Parent and court consent to voluntarily surrendering a child to adoption agencies, foster homes, other blood relatives or the Department of Human Resources
What rights do you have if your parental rights are being terminated?
You have certain rights and responsibilities if your parental rights are being terminated in Georgia. First and foremost, you have the right to be represented by an attorney throughout the process. You also have the right to present evidence on your behalf. Depending on the circumstances, the court may also consider testimony from experts or other witnesses.
Ultimately, it is up to the court to decide whether or not to terminate your parental rights. If they do so, you may (depending on the status as a custodial or non-custodial parent) no longer have any legal obligations or rights concerning your child.
Can you voluntarily sign away your parental rights?
In Georgia, you can voluntarily sign away your parental rights in certain circumstances. This means that you will no longer have any legal authority to make decisions for your child–such as decisions about custody, visitation, or education. You will also no longer be financially responsible for your child, you and your child will no longer be able to inherit from one another.
To do so, you must go before a judge and state your reasons for wanting to relinquish your rights. The judge will then consider your case and determine whether it is in the child’s best interests to terminate your parental rights. If the judge decides it is, they will sign an order terminating your rights.
If you are considering signing away your parental rights, it’s highly recommended to speak with a lawyer first. There may be specific reasons why this may not be a good option for you and your child. Your lawyer can help you understand the implications of signing away your parental rights and advise you on the best course of action for your situation.
Does losing parental rights stop child support?
In Georgia, losing parental rights will usually stop continuing child support, but does not alleviate any past due amounts that may have accrued prior to the termination. Child support is typically determined by a number of factors, such as income, number of children, and custody arrangements. Depending on the status of the custodial parent, if one parent loses parental rights, the other parent may still be required to make child support payments for past due amounts.
Get Your Questions About Parental Rights and Child Support Answered
In Georgia, parental rights can be terminated if you are delinquent in your child support payments, but this is usually just one of many reasons the Court may consider terminating parental rights. Failure to pay child support alone is usually not sufficient for the Court to terminate a parent’s legal rights to a child given the Court’s other available remedies and sanctions for such conduct. Terminating parental rights is complicated, and there are many reasons why it may happen. If you are concerned that you may lose your rights or want to sign them away, it is essential to speak with an attorney who can explain the process and help you make the best decision for yourself and your child.
At the Law Firm of Fennell, Briasco, and Associates, we understand the importance of family law issues like termination of parental rights and child support. We offer consultations so that you can get answers to your questions from a qualified legal professional. Contact us today to schedule yours.
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