Usually a petition to terminate parental rights is filed by a parent whose new spouse wishes to adopt the parent’s child from a previous relationship, or by the Department of Social Services (DSS) when a child has been abused or neglected. In the case of DSS, the agency is required by statute to make reunification efforts for the child and the offending parent who is alleged to have abused or neglected the child. Generally, a 12-month period is allowed for re-unification efforts prior to the agency being allowed to petition for TPR.
In the case of a private TPR by a parent and step-parent, the same factors of N.C.G.S. §7B-1111 must be alleged. In those cases, the child must have resided with the parent and step-parent for at least six months immediately preceding the filing of the petition for TPR.
The burden of proof in termination of parental rights cases is clear and convincing evidence. This is a much higher burden than the “greater weight of the evidence” standard of proof in other civil cases.
A person may not petition the court to terminate his or her own parental rights to escape the responsibility of child support payments.
More details about who can petition to terminate parental rights are available in North Carolina General Statute §7B-1103.