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Child Custody

Terminating Parental Rights

Owing in part to a national surge in reports of CHILD ABUSE and neglect in the 1980s and 1990s, courts and society faced questions of whether abusive or dangerously neglectful parents should retain custody of their own children. It is the government's role to step in when a child is not being safely cared for, and if parents are judged unfit, the local social-services department may seek to terminate their parental rights and to free the child for adoption or alternative care. A child may be placed in foster care while a custody case is pending.

Before removing a child from her or his parents, the state must produce "clear and convincing" evidence that terminating parental rights is the best option for the child. This was clarified in Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745, 102 S. Ct. 1388, 71 L. Ed. 2d 599 (1982). The case arose after a New York County social-services department successfully brought neglect proceedings in state court against the Santoskys, a couple with three children. The U.S. Supreme Court found that the state's standard—"a fair preponderance of evidence"—was too low for deciding something as important as a family's future.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Robert Lee Carter - Further Readings to Child MolestationChild Custody - Divorced Parents, Unmarried Parents, Criteria For Custody Awards, Social Issues: Sexual Orientation And Race - Changing Custody Awards, Termination of Custody