The law describing what DYFS must prove to terminate parental rights appears in the New Jersey Statutes at N.J.S.A. 30:4C-15 and 30:4C-15.1. You may get a copy of this law at courthouse law libraries and most public libraries. It describes the five different grounds, listed below, for terminating parental rights. To win the case against you, DYFS must choose one ground and prove all of the elements of that ground at trial.
1. Best interests of the child
The most common legal basis for terminating parental rights is called best interests of the child. In order to terminate your parental rights on the ground of best interests of the child, DYFS must prove that all of the following things are true:
- You have harmed or will continue to harm your child.
- You are unwilling or unable to end the harm or danger of harm you pose to your child (the harm may be that your child is emotionally attached or bonded to his or her current caretakers and would suffer serious and lasting emotional damage if separated from them), or you are unable or unwilling to provide a safe, permanent home for your child.
- The child is being harmed because he or she does not have a permanent home.
- DYFS has done what it was required to do to help you correct your problems and to arrange for you to visit with your child.
- There are no reasonable alternatives to termination of parental rights, such as placing the child with a relative.
- Terminating your rights will benefit the child more than it will hurt the child, usually because someone is waiting to adopt him or her.
2. Failure to correct problems
Another legal basis for terminating parental rights is a parent’s failure to correct problems. To base its termination on this ground, DYFS must prove that the following things are true:
- Within a year from the time of the removal of your child, you have not corrected the problems (such as substance abuse, psychological problems, or dangerous parenting practices) that caused the child to be taken from your home, although you are physically and financially able to correct your problems.
- DYFS has done what it was required to do to help you correct your problems.
Parental rights may be terminated on the ground of abandonment if:
- DYFS does not know who you are, even though it has used all reasonable methods to identify you; or
- Without having a good reason, you have had no contact with the child, the child’s foster parents, or DYFS for six months or more, and DYFS does not know where you are and has been unable to find you.
4. Conviction of a crime
Another ground for terminating parental rights is if you have been convicted of, or entered a plea of guilty to, abuse, abandonment, neglect, or cruelty to a child in a criminal case.
5. Other court findings
Your parental rights also may be terminated if:
- A court has found that you committed or attempted to commit, conspired, helped, or hired someone to commit murder, aggravated manslaughter, or manslaughter of any of your children; or
- A court has found that you committed or attempted to commit an assault that resulted or could have resulted in significant bodily injury to any of your children; or
- A court has found that you committed some other very serious act that resulted or could have resulted in the death of or serious bodily injury to any of your children.
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This information last reviewed 10/28/11