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Family and Relationships

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Home Page > Family and Relationships > Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) > Termination of Parental Rights: A Handbook for Parents

C. What Does Termination of Parental Rights Mean?


Termination of parental rights is a very serious matter. Termination of parental rights means the end of a legally recognized parent-child relationship. If your parental rights to your child are terminated, you will no longer have the legal right to any contact with the child, in person or by telephone, mail, or computer. You will lose your right to information about your child, including medical and educational records. You will not have access to information about or photographs of the child’s progress. You will only be able to have contact with your child if the adoptive parents give you permission.

A note about child support

Your financial responsibility for the child does not stop when parental rights are terminated. That legal responsibility only ends upon the adoption of the child. During the court case, and even after your rights are terminated (but before the child is adopted), DYFS, your county welfare agency, or a relative caregiver of your child may seek a court order for child support against you.

This case is not a criminal case

A termination of parental rights action is a civil action, not a criminal action. You cannot be put in jail or subjected to any other criminal penalty if you lose this case. Criminal charges may be brought against parents for child abuse or neglect. Parents who are charged with those crimes are usually arrested close to the time DYFS first removes their children from them.

If you are named as a defendant in a criminal case, or if the prosecutor’s office is investigating you as a possible criminal defendant, make sure that the lawyer representing you in your termination of parental rights case knows about your criminal case. Also make sure that the lawyer defending you in the criminal case knows about your termination of parental rights case. When there are two cases, one civil and one criminal, sometimes issues about getting evidence or scheduling visits with the child must be coordinated between the cases.

This handbook does not address criminal law or procedure.

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Copyright © 2011 Legal Services of New Jersey

This information last reviewed 10/28/11


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