Unlike new gadgets that come with a manual, nobody prepares you for the challenging parenting journey. You are bound to make mistakes from time to time and learn to become a better parent. But if you make certain blunders, you can be robbed off the privilege to be in your child’s life.
Being a parent that is actively involved in your children’s lives is a right that you don’t want to lose. But when accused of child abuse, this right may be taken away expeditiously. Child abuse reports are taken very seriously by the court. That’s why you’ll need a Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer to help you keep control of your future if accused of child abuse.
Who can File a Petition for the Termination of Parental Rights?
The process of terminating a parent’s right over a minor begins with filing the petition in court. A Lemoyne child abuse defense lawyer can challenge it and fight for the accused to remain in their child’s life.
Here is a list of who can file the petition:
- A guardian ad litem or an attorney representing a child that has been an adjudicated dependent
- A person that has filed a report of intention to adopt the child, is “standing in loco parentis” or has custody of the minor.
- An agency
- A parent that wants to terminate the other parent’s rights
What Constitutes Child Abuse in Pennsylvania?
Child abuse is among the grounds for terminating your rights as a parent in Pennsylvania. Notably, it comes in different forms, and the court will examine the evidence presented to establish whether it qualifies as abuse. Here are forms of child abuse:
- A minor that is possibly at risk if they are returned to a parent’s home
- A parent that was convicted of a violent crime against the child or a family member
- A parent that has shown extreme disinterest in the child and has even abandoned them
- Children in the same household that have been neglected or abused
- A parent that has failed to provide food, shelter, and other needed care to the minor.
- A parent that inflicted extreme emotional damage to the child
- The parent that exposed the child to severe psychological torture or abuse
- A parent that has sexually abused the child.
- A parent that has perpetrated chronic or severe physical abuse of the child
How Is a Parent Notified of the Termination Case?
The parent is usually notified of the petition’s hearing ten days before. And if the parent is below 18 years, their parent will be notified in writing. The court offers no protection to a parent that ignores the notice. In fact, the court will proceed with the hearing in your absence – if you deliberately fail to show up.
All parties in the petition are entitled to be represented by a Lemoyne child abuse defense attorney – including the child. The guardian ad litem has a duty to report the child’s interest to the court and represent those interests during the hearing. Notably, the representation is only for the purpose of legal action.
Who Bears the Burden of Proof in the Parental Termination Case?
The individual or agency making the petition has a duty to prove that you meet the threshold to have your parental rights terminated. It is worth noting that there are nine legal grounds for involuntary termination in Pennsylvania. In all of them, the argument for termination is to safeguard the interests of the minor.
A parental termination hearing involves cross-examination by the counsel to all parties and witnesses’ testimonies. The judge’s decision is based on whether or not the termination is good for the child’s emotional, physical, and developmental needs. Aggressive representation by a Lemoyne defense lawyer is necessary because your rights as a parent may depend on it.
What Informs a Judge’s Decision on Terminating a Parent’s Rights?
If the judge is convinced that the child will be better off away from you as the parent, he/she can terminate your parental rights. After that, they may stay with the other parent, stay in a foster home, or be given up for adoption. But if you are dissatisfied with the ruling, you can speak to your Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney about an appeal in the Superior Court.
Additionally, your child abuse case can significantly impact the court’s verdict. For instance, if you are acquitted of those charges, the judge is less likely to take away your parenting rights. The chances of retaining your parenting routine after a conviction are very slim. So it is safer to get a skilled criminal defense attorney to handle both of your cases and give them better outcomes.
How Can an Attorney Defend Me from the Child Abuse Charges?
If you were falsely accused of perpetrating child abuse, you could find proof that shows that the allegations are untrue. Child abuse can come in the form of an accusation of gross carelessness or recklessness that resulted in a minor being injured. You can argue that the incident was accidental, but remember that you can be prosecuted if the accident emanated from the point of negligence.
At other times, children get into fights that result in non-accidental injuries. Others have diseases or conditions that make it easy for them to sustain serious injuries, for example, brittle bone disease. A good defense involves bringing evidence that shows the alleged abuse’s real cause and proving that you were not responsible for it.
An Experienced and Aggressive Legal Professional On Your Side
A petition as serious as a termination of your parental rights and responsibilities puts you at risk of losing access to children you love. But it doesn’t have to be the end game if an aggressive lawyer represents you well.
You need a legal representative that can skillfully challenge all the evidence, testimonies, and facts presented by the petitioner. Our Lemoyne criminal defense lawyer will counter the arguments with proof of the positive efforts to play your role as a parent. You need to speak to Attorney R. Davis Younts as soon as possible to secure your evidence and witness testimonies. Reach us on (833) 739-5291 or (717) 612-4840 if you live in Cumberland or Dauphin County and get a free strategy session.