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In this article we discuss the process of terminating parental rights in Wisconsin, including: Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights in Wisconsin, Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights in Wisconsin, and Process of Terminating Parental Rights in Wisconsin

Occasionally, there may be circumstances under which a parent finds that it is within the best interest of their child or children that they terminate their parental rights. This may happen because one parent does not want to be involved, cannot be involved or does not feel like they can adequately care for the child. In this article we discuss the process of terminating parental rights in Wisconsin, including:

  • Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights in Wisconsin
  • Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights in Wisconsin
  • Process of Terminating Parental Rights in Wisconsin

Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights in Wisconsin

One method of terminating a parent’s parental rights is through voluntary relinquishment of the rights by the relinquishing parent. While this route may seem straightforward because no one is contesting the termination, Wisconsin courts still view this with scrutiny, especially if the loss of one parent’s income makes it more likely that the child will be forced on public assistance.  

Judges must first ensure that the relinquishing parent fully understands the consequences of the termination of parental rights, and is consenting to such willingly. The parent may prove consent to the termination in-person at a hearing in which they will be questioned by the judge. Alternatively, if an in-person hearing is not possible, the parent may submit a written consent acknowledging understanding of the consequences of this action and consent to it nonetheless. The judge must also determine that the parent relinquishing their rights has the capacity to do so, meaning no ongoing mental health issues.

Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights in Wisconsin

Another method of termination involves one parent trying to terminate the rights of the other parent. Under Wisconsin law, there are several valid grounds for involuntary termination of another parent’s rights. These include abandonment, parental disability, failure to assume parental responsibilities or child abuse.  

Under this process, the Court will still hold a hearing to determine whether the termination is within the best interests of the child. They will consider what other family members are available to care for the child and how stable the child’s living and home situation will be after the termination. Wisconsin courts are more likely to grant the termination of a parent’s rights when it is done in conjunction with an adoption, such as a stepparent adoption.  

Process of Terminating Parental Rights in Wisconsin

No matter the method used to terminate a parent’s rights, the process is very similar. The process always involves a Petition by some party to terminate someone’s rights. In order to hear the case, the Court must first meet the jurisdictional requirements of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. The involved parties must then be given notice and then a hearing will be held to determine what is within the best interest of the children. The child will be appointed a guardian ad litem, which is essentially a separate attorney appointed to represent the child’s interests alone, as opposed to representing the interests of either parent. There are separate considerations involved for children living on Indian reservations. Please see the Indian Child Welfare Act for additional considerations.  

If you are thinking about terminating someone’s parental rights in Wisconsin and would like the assistance of an attorney today, call our office at (630) 324-6666.  

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