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Termination of parental rights – Nevada law

As a divorce attorney, I know that when a parent can loses custody over his or her child it is pretty bad.  Imagine when a parent loses his or her parental rights. These are sad cases but sometimes it is necessary for the protection of the child to separate the child from a parent who poses a danger to the child either because of drug use, alcohol abuse or criminality.  In other situation, termination of parental rights is necessary because the parent is not supporting the child and not communication with the child.  This is an absentee parent.  Termination of parental rights of an absentee parents will enable the child to be adopted into a loving and supportive family.

The law and procedure regarding termination of parental rights is found in chapter 128 of Nevada Revised Statutes. A parent can lose his or her parental rights due to abandonment of the child, neglect of the child or injury to the child.

The statute defines abandonment of a child as any conduct of a parent of a child which demonstrates a clear purpose on the part of the parent to forgo all parental custody and relinquish all claims to the child. The statute further states that if a parent of a child leaves the child in the care and custody of another without provision for the support and care of the child and without communication for a period of six months or if the child is left under such circumstances that the identity of the parents is unknown and cannot be ascertained despite diligent searching, and the parents do not come forward to claim the child within 3 months after the child is found, the parent or parents are presumed to have intended to abandon the child. This behavior raises the presumption of the parent has intended to abandon the child.

The statute defines a neglected child as a child

  1. Who lacks the proper parental care by reason of the fault or habits of his or her parent, guardian or custodian;
  2. Whose parent, guardian or custodian neglects or refuses to provide proper or necessary subsistence, education, medical or surgical care, or other care necessary for the child’s health, morals or well-being;
  3. Whose parent, guardian or custodian neglects or refuses to provide the special care made necessary by the child’s physical or mental condition;
  4. Who is found in a disreputable place, or who is permitted to associate with vagrants or vicious or immoral persons; or
  5. Who engages or is in a situation dangerous to life or limb, or injurious to health or morals of the child or others, and the parent’s neglect need not be willful.

A parent can lose parental rights due to injury he or she causes to the child.  “Injury” to a child is defined by the statute as follows:

  1. “Injury” to a child’s health or welfare occurs when the parent, guardian or custodian:
    1. Inflicts or allows to be inflicted upon the child, physical, mental or emotional injury, including injuries sustained as a result of excessive corporal punishment;
    2. Commits or allows to be committed against the child, sexual abuse.
    3. Neglects or refuses to provide for the child proper or necessary subsistence, education or medical or surgical care, although he or she is financially able to do so or has been offered financial or other reasonable means to do so; or
    4. Fails, by specific acts or omissions, to provide the child with adequate care, supervision or guardianship under circumstances requiring the intervention of:
      1. An agency which provides child welfare services; or
      2. The juvenile or family court itself.

Note that paragraph 2 states that if a parent uses nonmedical remedies for the child because of the parent’s religious believes, the parent is not considered as having injured the child if such treatment is recognized and permitted under the laws of this State.

The proceedings to terminate parental rights  begin by the filing of a petition to terminate parental rights of the parent who is neglecting or abandoning or injuring the child as defined above. The petition can be brought by a parent or a government entity who is taking care of the child. A mother of an unborn child can also filed a petition.

The statute is very specific as to what elements the petition must contain. The statute  also specific how long after the filing of the petition case has to be completed.

Termination of parental rights requires personal service on the parent against whom the petition is brought. The notice has to specify the date and time of the hearing. The statute says that if the parent’s whereabouts are unknown then the petition has to be served on the nearest relative of such parent if the relative is residing in Nevada. If the petitioner or the child is receiving public assistance, the petitioner must also mail a copy of the notice of hearing to the division of welfare by certified mail.  The statute incorporates Rule 4 of the Nevada Rules of Civil Procedure regarding the service of notice of hearing by publication when the parent cannot, after due diligence, be found in the state, or conceals himself or herself to avoid service of the notice of hearing.  Pursuant to Rule 4, The notice can be published in a newspaper of general circulation for a period of four weeks at least once a week and a notice has to be mailed to the last known address of the parent.

Termination of parental rights is considered as a sealed case which means that the pleadings are not open to the public and the hearing is conducted in a closed court. The statute provides that the proceedings are civil in nature, but the burden of proof is “clear and convincing evidence,” which is higher than the typical “preponderance of evidence” burden of proof. The statute directs the judge to give careful consideration to all the evidence presented. The statute states that the dominant purpose of the proceedings is to serve the best interests of the child.

The statute directs the judge what elements to consider in finding that the child is neglected, or the parent is unfit. Conduct towards the child that is physically emotionally or sexually cruel or abusive, contacted violates criminal statutes, excessive use of alcohol, use of controlled substance or dangerous drugs which cause the parent to be unable to care foe the child. Repeated in continuous Faler by the parent, although physically and financially able, to provide the child with adequate food clothing shelter education and other necessary care. if the parent is convicted for the crime of a felony if the facts of the crime are such a nature is to indicate do you have fitness of the parent to provide adequate care for the child. If the Child or sibling of the child or another child in the care of the parent suffered a physical injury resulting in a substantial battery harm for which the parent has no reasonable explanation if such injury would not of occurred absence of abuse or neglect him.

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