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The post below was published on Tuesday, January 18th, 2011 at 8:31 AM.

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Hey, Legislature: Termination of Parental Rights

Those involved with termination of parental rights cases should be interested in this decision from the Second District. A trial court terminated a father’s parental rights because he breached a case plan term requiring him not to commit further legal violations. He had been convicted of aggravated assault on a pregnant woman. The district court determined that case plans may not contain a term prohibiting new legal violations because including such a requirement conflicts with the statutory scheme and violates the principle that termination cannot be predicated on incarceration alone or noncompliance caused by incarceration. The district court accordingly reversed the termination order.

In short, the court invalidated case plan terms that require a parent not to commit any new legal violations.

Judge Altenbernd concurred in the decision and wrote separately to encourage the legislature to revisit the statutory scheme. He explained:

I recognize that the termination of a parent’s rights to a child implicates a fundamental liberty interest of the parent under existing case law, but it seems to me that, at some point, children ought to have a fundamental right to a safe, secure, and permanent home. In this case, there is little question that we are providing the Father with his constitutional rights at the expense of the children. An improved statute might allow us to avoid such outcomes in the future.

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