TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS IN NEVADA
The Supreme Court of Nevada has consistently recognized that severing the parent-child relationship is an extreme measure and an exercise of awesome power. The sacredness of parental rights requires a high standard of proof before a child can be judicially taken away. If the Clark County Department of Family Services (DFS) starts the process to terminate your parental rights, then act quickly to obtain a qualified and experienced family law attorney.
The attorneys at Mills & Anderson are experienced in represent parents in dependency proceedings for the termination of parental rights in Las Vegas and Clark County, Nevada. Act quickly to protect your rights and the rights of your child. We also represent the non-offending parent, relatives, guardians or other relatives in these difficult and complicated cases.
The family law attorneys at Mills & Anderson understand that each case and each family is unique. After DFS contends that parental fault existed based on abandonment, neglect, unfitness, failure of parental adjustment, or that the parent posed risk of harm to the child or children, we work hard to show that court that our proposed resolution is in the best interest of the child. Call (702) 386-0030 today to discuss the facts of your unique case.
Dependency Proceedings under Nevada Law
The juvenile division of the district court in Clark County, Nevada, hears dependency proceedings. Under NRS 128.110, in an action to terminate perennial rights, the court can order that the child is forever free from their parent’s custody and control. In many cases, the parents are represented by counsel in the NRS Chapter 432B proceedings. Parents can choose to retain private counsel to represent their interests. Other individuals in the case might all seek out legal representation including the non-offending parent and any relatives that are seeking guardianship, temporary custody, or adoption of the child.
In Nevada, the juvenile court has exclusive jurisdiction in proceedings concerning a child who is or may be a child in need of protection. See NRS 432B.410(1); see also NRS 432B.050; NRS 62A.180. A child is in need of protection if, among other things, “[t]he child has been subjected to abuse or neglect by a person responsible for the welfare of the child.” NRS 432B.330(1)(b). An agency that provides child welfare services must file a petition in the juvenile court alleging that a child is in need of protection. See NRS 432B.490; NRS 432B.510.
When the petition alleges abuse or neglect by only one parent, the other parent nonetheless has constitutional protections and must be treated individually. See NRS 432B.457 (requiring that each parent be notified of any plan for the child’s temporary or permanent placement); NRS 432B.510(4)(c) (stating that the petition for hearing must include the names of the child’s parents); NRS 432B.520(1) (requiring that the parent be notified of the hearing on the petition if the child is in the custody of a nonparent).
Due process requires that each parent is entitled to a hearing before being deprived of the custody of his or her child. It is improper for the court to merely impute one parent’s conduct to terminate the parental rights of the other parent. After the Clark County Department of Family Services (DFS) in Las Vegas, Nevada, initiates an action to terminate parental rights, seek out the services of a qualified and experienced attorney to help you show the court that your proposes solution is in the child’s best interest.
The Removal of the Child from the Home by DFS
It is presumed that fit parents act in the best interest of their children. If parents adequately care for their children, there is normally no reason for the State to get involved in the private realm of the family.
It is only after allegations of abandonment, or severe abuse or neglect, that the Clark County Department of Family Services (DFS) can remove a child from the parent’s home. In many cases representatives from Child Protective Services will begin an investigation and initiate the removal of child from the home. The removal is based on an allegation that parental fault because of abandonment, neglect, unfitness, failure of parental adjustment, or that the parent posed risk of harm to the child.
It is important to retain an attorney as early in the process as possible so that all of your rigths are protected. Hiring an attorney early in the process may mean that the Court in Las Vegas, Clark County, NV, will order the return of your child within the shortest period of time possible.
Adjudicatory Hearing Concerning Protective Custody
Shortly after the child is placed into protective custody, the court conducts an adjudicatory hearing and, if the allegations in the petition are denied by the person responsible for the child, an evidentiary hearing on the petition must be conducted. See NRS 432B.530. If the court finds that the allegations in the petition have not been established, it must dismiss the petition and order the child’s immediate release from protective custody. NRS 432B.530(5).
If the juvenile court finds that the child is in need of protection, the court may make a number of dispositions, including allowing the child to remain with a parent or placing the child with a nonparent. See NRS 432B.530(5); NRS 432B.550. If the child is placed outside the home, the agency must make reasonable efforts to reunify and preserve the family of the child, with the child’s health and safety being a paramount concern. See NRS 432B.393(1) and (2).
The agency must submit a plan concerning placement of the child, including a description of services to be provided to the person responsible for the child and to the child in order to facilitate reunification or to ensure a permanent placement for the child. NRS 432B.540(2)(b).
The Abuse and Neglect Petition
After the child’s removal from the home, the Clark County Department of Family Services (DFS) will often file an NRS Chapter 432B abuse and neglect petition. As part of the abuse and neglect proceeding, the parents will often be provided with a case plan to complete before reunification with the child is allowed.
The juvenile court may also order “[t]he child, a parent or the guardian to undergo such medical, psychiatric, psychological, or other care or treatment as the court considers to be in the best interests of the child.” NRS 432B.560(1)(a).
DFS Case Plans under NRS 128.0155
Case plans can involve requirements to attend medical appointments, attend parenting classes, maintain stable employment and housing, and complete a physical abuse risk assessment. The plan should also provide frequent visitations with the child or children. If the plan is being followed, the parents should be allowed frequent unsupervised overnight visitation until reunification is permitted.
If the plan is followed, DFS might recommend maintaining the permanency plan of reunifying the child or children. NRS 128.0155 defines a case plan as either:
- a written agreement between the parents and the agency having custody of the child, or
- written conditions and obligations imposed upon the parents by the court with the objective of reuniting the family.
Due process requires that each parent is entitled to a hearing before being deprived of the custody of his or her child. See In re Parental Rights as to AG., 129 Nev., Adv. Op. 13, 295 P.3d 589, 593 (2013). When a child is placed in the temporary custody of a person other than a parent, “[t]he parent retains the right to consent to adoption, to determine the child’s religious affiliation and to reasonable visitation, unless restricted by the court.” NRS 432B.550(2)(a). If the parents rights are being abridged, a parent may petition the court to enforce those rights. See id.
The attorneys at Mills & Anderson help the parents exercise their rights to physically visit their children while the action is pending at the courthouse in Las Vegas or Clark County, Nevada. The attorneys can also help the parents pursue their legal rights to pursue progress in a case plan in order to seek the reinstatement of reunification efforts and to regain custody of the child or children. Important due process protections apply in these cases to protect the rights of the parents, interested third parties and the children.
Dispositional Hearing to Review the Permanent Placement Plan
Within 12 months after the initial removal of the child from the home, and annually thereafter, the juvenile court must conduct a dispositional hearing to review the plan for permanent placement of the child and to determine whether the agency has made reasonable efforts to finalize the child’s permanent placement. NRS 432B.590(1)(a) and (3); NRS 432B.553(1).
The court may consider whether the child should be returned to the parents or whether termination of parental rights proceedings should be instituted under NRS Chapter 128, so that the child can be placed for adoption. NRS 432B.590(3)(b).
The recommendation might then be presented to a domestic master for approval. The domestic master can either approve the permanency plan for reunification or move to terminate parental rights. To proceed on that recommendation, a petition to terminate appellants’ parental rights might then be filed. The DFS might contend that parental fault existed based on abandonment, neglect, unfitness, failure of parental adjustment, and a posed risk of harm to the child or children.
The Trial on the Petition to Terminate Parental Rights
The most extreme cases will proceed to trial. At trial, the district court will enter a written order determining whether to grant the petition on the basis that terminating the parental rights was in the best interest of the child or children. To make this determination, the court will determine whether DFS established by clear and convincing evidence parental fault based on abandonment, neglect, unfitness, failure of parental adjustment or a posed risk of harm to the child or children.
Standards in Actions to Terminate Parental Rights
To terminate parental rights, a petitioner must prove by clear and convincing evidence that termination is in the child’s best interest and that parental fault exists. See NRS 128.105. A district court’s order terminating parental rights is subject to close scrutiny because the termination of parental rights “is an exercise of awesome power that is tantamount to imposition of a civil death penalty.” See In re Parental Rights as to A.J.G., 122 Nev. 1418, 1423 (2006).
Any order of the court must include the district court’s factual findings that the termination is in the child’s best interest and that parental fault exists are supported by substantial evidence. Id. If a parental termination proceeding is instituted against a parent, the petitioner must establish by clear and convincing evidence that parental fault exists and that the child’s best interest would be served by termination of parental rights. NRS 128.105.
Parental fault can be established by findings that the parent’s conduct constitutes abandonment, neglect, unfitness, failure of parental adjustment, risk of injury, or token efforts. NRS 128.105.
Presumptions in Termination of Parental Rights Cases
In addition to affirmative findings, certain presumptions can arise to establish parental fault and that the child’s best interest would be served by termination.
NRS 432B.590(4) states that “[i]f a child has been placed outside of the home and has resided outside of the home pursuant to that placement for 14 months of any 20 consecutive months, the best interests of the child must be presumed to be served by the termination of parental rights.”
In this regard, when a child has been placed outside his or her home under NRS Chapter 432B for 14 of any 20 consecutive months, “it must be presumed that the parent or parents have demonstrated only token efforts to care for the child.” NRS 128.109(1)(a). These token efforts demonstrate parental fault and give rise to the presumption that termination of the parent’s parental rights is in the child’s best interest. NRS 128.109(1)(a) and (2).
Another presumption, failure of parental adjustment, arises when the parent fails to substantially comply “with the terms and conditions of a plan to reunite the family within 6 months after the date on which the child was placed or the plan was commenced, whichever occurs later.” NRS 128.109(1)(b); NRS 128.105(2)(d).
Finding an Attorney for Parental Rights Termination Proceedings
For a case involving a dependency hearing or the termination of parental rights, contact an experienced Las Vegas family law attorney at Mills & Anderson. The attorneys in our office have represented clients in a wide variety of family law and child custody cases throughout Clark County, NV. We have represented the offending parent, the non-offending parent, a relative seeking guardianship or custody of the child, as well as other third parties to the action.
As experienced family law attorneys, we are not afraid to go to court to litigate issues in the case when negotiations before trial or hearing do not result in the best result. The best negotiations often occur after it is apparent that the attorney and client are ready to litigate the issues in court. For a dependency case in Las Vegas, Clark County, Nevada, contact the attorneys at Mills & Anderson to discuss your case today. Let us help you show the court and the other parties involved that your plan for the child is in the child’s best interest.