Jonathan D.Watson              256.599.4113
                         ATTORNEY AT LAW

                                                                                                                                  517 Bank Street, NE, Ste. D
                                                                                                                                  Decatur, Alabama 35601

Juvenile Law | Dependency and Termination of Parental Rights

Stated simply, Dependency Cases arise when a family relative, state agency, or concerned person alleges that a child is being neglected or abused.  Dependency Cases proceed in two-stages: in the first, the Judge determines if the child is, in fact, dependent, that is, is the child being neglected or abused?  If so, the Judge proceeds to the next stage where he or she must decide who should be given custody of the child.

These types of cases can involve numerous parties including the parents, children, family members, state agencies, and a variety of court-appointed attorneys.

When is Dependency Appropriate?

A finding of Dependency is appropriate when there is evidence that the parent cannot or is not property caring for his or her or their minor child(ren).  Dependency is a less severe judicial action when compared to a TPR because a finding of dependency can be set aside if the parent(s) demonstrate at some later time that he or she has corrected the former problem.

         State Involvement

The Department of Human Resources (DHR) initiates numerous Dependency cases.  These types of cases normally begin by a complaint made to DHR stating that a child is being abused or neglected.  If DHR's investigation reveals the claim to be merited, DHR will remove the child from the care of the parent(s) and seek a finding of dependency.

   Private Dependency Actions

Any person can initiate a Dependency case.  Normally, these persons are family relatives such as grandparents or aunts/uncles.

Mr. Watson is glad to assist you if you are involved in or are contemplating a dependency action.

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Legal Issue:

  Termination of Parental Rights

Alabama law provides a way to terminate a parent's rights to his or her child, including, among others, the right to have custody of the child and to make decisions concerning the child.  Terminating the fundamental rights a parent hold to his or her own child is harsh and the law, accordingly, makes doing so difficult.  However, sometimes it is necessary.

     When Is TPR Appropriate?

TPR is appropriate when the best interests of the child will be served by doing so.  In most cases, TPR is sought to achieve permanency for the child or children.  In other words, the parents of the child are not able to care for the child and show no signs of every being able to do so.  As such, foster-care and/or adoption are the best options for the child. 

TPR cases, like dependency cases, often involve abuse, abandonment, and/or neglect.

            State Involvement

The Department of Human Resources (DHR) will often seek to terminate a parent's parental rights if the parent has failed to comply with DHR's reasonable efforts or requests.  Often, DHR has taken custody of the child from the parent for some reason and has concluded that reunification of parent and child will not be possible.

          Consult an Attorney

Mr. Watson represents clients seeking to terminate the parental rights of others in the context of an adoption and parents and children who are subject to TPR.  He advises any parent whose rights are threatened by a TPR action consult an attorney immediately.  The consequences of a TPR are permanent and harsh, though sometimes for the best.
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