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Do Felons Lose Parental Rights?

Being a felon isn’t ideal for anyone, but things become a little more difficult when a felon is also a parent.  A common thing that is wondered by felons is if they will lose their parental right due to their felony conviction.

In this blog post, we will give an answer to that question and explain what you need to know about felonies and parental rights.

This blog post covers the following;

  • Contact an Attorney to Review Your Parental Rights
  • The Definition of Foster Care
  • Keeping Your Parental Rights When an Order of Protection is Served
  • When You Can Adopt or Act in a Foster Capacity
  • Staying Sober is Crucial

Convicted felons often ponder and worry over their rights as parents once they are convicted of a crime.

However, unless you are convicted of a serious offense, such as manslaughter or murder, you typically will not lose your rights. If your felony conviction, however, is for murder or manslaughter, the state has the right to file a petition to terminate your rights based on these convictions alone.

While you will not necessarily lose your rights if you are sentenced to a residential treatment program or prison, federal law states that if you have a child that was in foster care for 15 out of 22 months, the agency can submit a petition to the court to terminate your parental rights.

Contact an Attorney to Review Your Parental Rights

Therefore, if you are or have been incarcerated, you need to make sure you remain in contact with your child and the associated agency to ensure that a permanent arrangement is made. You’ll need to seek out legal counsel for this to make sure that you maintain your visiting rights.

You will need to find out about your monetary obligations for your child as well as your visiting rights during your sentence. If you are serving a prison sentence that is longer than one year and your child is admitted to foster care, legally, you should consult an attorney immediately to find out what steps you need to take in order to preserve you parental rights.

Begin by making the effort to remain in contact with your child or children and keep copies of the documentation that shows each contact or attempted contact you have made with your child and his caseworker.

Just remember, you cannot lose custody of a child by simply being incarcerated.

However, again, if you don’t remain in contact with your children for six months consecutively, your parental rights, unfortunately, can be terminated, based on the grounds of abandonment.

The Definition of Foster Care

The only time that counts as a period in foster care is when a child spends the time at a state agency. If you make arrangements to place your children or child with an adult you deem as responsible, that time is not defined as a foster care period.

Once you are released from jail or prison, you do not have to go to court to obtain custody of your child or children.  Unless the adult who is taking care of your child refuses to give the child back, you do not have to make any pleas before a judge.

The Department of Correctional Service usually has a “Temporary Acknowledgement of Custody” that you can use. Here is how the process for placing your child with an adult is facilitated. First, you must make a description or describe what type of arrangement for custody you have made. Both the parent (you) and the caretaker must agree to the custody arrangement by signing document using a notary.

If you sign a voluntary placement agreement, you are not agreeing to foster care. This type of contract is a placement arrangement that gives custody of your child to the Department of Social Services or the child welfare offices.

Keeping Your Parental Rights When an Order of Protection is Served

In some cases, a parent who has custody of her children may have an order of protection against the incarcerated party. If an order of protection was served on you, you need to ask a defense attorney to change the order to a limited order of protection or, at least, make the order subject to modification by the judicial system. If the protection order is subject to modification in the family court, you can go into the court yourself and apply for visitation.

If your child is placed in foster care, you still have the right to visit your child, whether you are incarcerated or not. As a felon, you have the basic right to understand why you child was placed in foster care and to identify a friend or family member who can act as familial resources for your children while you are in prison or jail.

You also have the right to attorney representation in Family court and to identify the name of the caseworker for your child. It is also essential that you remain in contact with him or her.

You have the right as a felon to participate in the planning of the future of our child and to provide any input on a permanency plan. You also have the right to obtain any help in taking the needed steps to eventually be reunified with your child.

When You Can Adopt or Act in a Foster Capacity

If you have been convicted of a felony, you may wonder if you can become an adoptive or foster parent if you have a federal conviction on your record. In some instances, the privilege will be denied if you have been convicted for any of the following crimes:

  • Child neglect or abuse;
  • Spousal abuse;
  • Crimes against children, such as child pornography;
  • A crime involving violence, such as sexual assault, homicide, rape or physical assault; or
  • A felony drug charge or physical assault within the past five years.

The Adam Walsh Child Protection Act is federal mandate that prohibits you from being an adoptive or foster parent if you have been convicted by any of the above-listed offenses. This law took effect on October 1, 2008.  Therefore, if you were already an adoptive a parent or foster parent before that date, you will not be separated from your children or removed based solely on your past felonies.

You need to review the policy directive for your state from the Office of Children & Family Services. You still may be denied the right to act as an adoptive or foster parent if you were charged or convicted of any kind of crime or a member of your household, aged 18 or over, was charged or convicted of a crime.

Staying Sober is Crucial

When dealing with possibly losing their parental rights, it’s unfortunately not uncommon for felons to use substances to escape their issues.  This doesn’t impact every felon, but for those that have a history of substance abuse, they typically use these methods to escape their issues.

Understand that substance abuse is an extremely dangerous issue and if you’re discovered to be a user, it’s likely you will lose parental rights.

If you are someone, or have a loved one who is dealing with substance abuse – PLEASE make a free call to 866-945-2509 for help finding the help you need.  

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