Termination of parental rights and having sole or full custody are two separate matters. A sole or full custody order can still be subject to modification down the line by the other parent since they ultimately still retain their parental rights. Termination of parental rights can generally only occur in conjunction with an adoption matter. Termination of parental rights is permanent outside of the appeal period. Termination of parental rights can be voluntary or involuntary. A biological parent can consent to an adoption and voluntarily relinquish their rights. Alternatively, parental rights may be subject to involuntary termination. Pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511, there are nine (9) grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights.
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(1) The parent by conduct continuing for a period of at least six months immediately preceding the filing of the petition either has evidenced a settled purpose of relinquishing parental claim to a child or has refused or failed to perform parental duties.
(2) The repeated and continued incapacity, abuse, neglect or refusal of the parent has caused the child to be without essential parental care, control or subsistence necessary for his physical or mental well-being and the conditions and causes of the incapacity, abuse, neglect or refusal cannot or will not be remedied by the parent.
(3) The parent is the presumptive but not the natural father of the child.
(4) The child is in the custody of an agency, having been found under such circumstances that the identity or whereabouts of the parent is unknown and cannot be ascertained by diligent search and the parent does not claim the child within three months after the child is found.
(5) The child has been removed from the care of the parent by the court or under a voluntary agreement with an agency for a period of at least six months, the conditions which led to the removal or placement of the child continue to exist, the parent cannot or will not remedy those
conditions within a reasonable period of time, the services or assistance reasonably available to the parent are not likely to remedy the conditions which led to the removal or placement of the child within a reasonable period of time and termination of the parental rights would best serve the needs and welfare of the child.
(6) In the case of a newborn child, the parent knows or has reason to know of the child's birth, does not reside with the child, has not married the child's other parent, has failed for a period of four months immediately preceding the filing of the petition to make reasonable efforts to maintain substantial and continuing contact with the child and has failed during the same four-month period to provide substantial financial support for the child.
(7) The parent is the father of a child conceived as a result of a rape or incest.
(8) The child has been removed from the care of the parent by the court or under a voluntary agreement with an agency, 12 months or more have elapsed from the date of removal or placement, the conditions which led to the removal or placement of the child continue to exist and termination of parental rights would best serve the needs and welfare of the child.
(9) The parent has been convicted of one of the following in which the victim was a child of the parent: criminal homicide, aggravated assault, a comparable crime in a different jurisdiction, or any attempt/conspiracy to commit the above.
Voluntary termination by consent of the natural parent or grounds for termination can be cited as part of an adoption petition if the adoption is kinship. In a non-kinship matter, the petitions for adoption and termination should be separate. The termination will be scheduled first. If successful, no notice must be given to the former biological parents as far as the subsequent adoption proceedings.