What You Need to Know About Terminating Parental Rights in Pennsylvania


Parental termination is one of the most serious and consequential decisions that can be made on behalf of a child. Numerous factors must be considered when it comes to weighing how to move forward with this heavy and complicated process, which varies from state to state. Here are a few of the most important things to know about terminating parental rights in Pennsylvania.

What does it mean to terminate parental rights?

The ramifications of terminating parental rights are akin to as if she child never belonged to the parent at all. Termination of parental rights can be voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary terminations usually occur when a parent is no longer involved in a child’s life by choice, or in many cases of adoption. Involuntary termination is triggered when another person petitions the court for the removal of a parent’s rights. 

What are the grounds for involuntary termination?

In Pennsylvania, the grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights include:

  • A parent is abusing or neglecting the child in a way that is causing the child to not have the essential care and protection of a parent. 
  • A child has been voluntarily removed from the care of parents due to welfare concerns and the conditions have not improved in at least six months.
  • Complete refusal of parental duties.
  • The discovery that the presumed parent is not the natural parent of the child.
  • The parents cannot be found or do not come forward within three months to claim a child who is in the care of an agency.
  • The parent has been convicted of committing or conspiring to commit a crime against one of their children, such as aggravated assault or  homicide.
  • The parent is required to register as a sexual offender.

Environmental conditions outside of the parent’s control, such as housing and furnishings, income, clothing, and proper medical care will not be considered as the sole reason for terminating parental rights.

Who decides parental rights are to be terminated?

A petition must be filed in order to begin the process of  considering the termination of parental rights. After that, a hearing will be held and a judge will determine the best next steps. 

Can terminated rights be reinstated?

As it is always the goal for children to remain with their parents whenever possible, there might be unique situations where the termination of rights is temporary. Additionally, the above situations described may not automatically mean parental rights will be terminated. A recovery plan for a parent can be implemented, requiring a case to be revisited over time. A judge might decide that a child should be placed temporarily with an agency or a family member while decisions or changes are being made for the child’s best interest. 

Determining whether or not to embark on terminating someone’s parental rights is a complex and life-changing process that should be treated with brevity and approached with the help of an expert. Contact a qualified family attorney at Shafer Law Firm to answer your questions.

About the Author: Kyle M. Janes

Kyle grew up in Meadville and attended Meadville Area Senior High. He attended college at Allegheny College. Upon graduating from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Kyle returned to Meadville to serve the community where he grew up.

Kyle has a diverse family law practice, including divorce, support, custody, juvenile dependency, adoption, pre-nuptial agreements, protection from abuse, and other domestic relations issues. His compassion for his clients and his knowledge of the law allow him to work on a full range of cases, from simple to complex.

This content is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this Post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.