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Termination of parental rights in sc – how and why would you terminate parental rights?

Termination of parental rights in sc – how and why would you terminate parental rights?
Axelrod & Associates, P.A.

There are two ways to terminate parental rights (TPR) in SC – voluntary and involuntary.

There are several reasons for termination of parental rights. Although adoption is the most common reason, TPR can also be pursued in rare cases where a child is at risk of harm from the parent.

Below, we will discuss the basics of termination of parental rights in SC, including:

  • Voluntary termination,
  • Involuntary termination, and
  • The statutory grounds for termination of parental rights.


In many adoption cases, and in some cases where parental rights are terminated based on the parent’s unfitness, the termination can be accomplished voluntarily.

When it is necessary to force the termination of parental rights, however, the moving party must prove – by clear and convincing evidence – that the parent is unfit using the statutory grounds for termination found in the SC Code.

Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights

Often used in adoption proceedings, voluntary relinquishment of parental rights can simplify the process, freeing up the child for adoption without a long, drawn-out court battle.

Who must consent for an adoption in SC?

SC Code Section 63-9-310 lists the persons who must give consent or relinquishment before an adoption can be finalized, including the adoptee if they are over 14 years old, the parents of the child, the child’s guardian, and the child placement agency.

The process for voluntary relinquishment is found in SC Code § 63-9-330 and requires a sworn document where the natural parent consents to relinquishment of their parental rights. The document must include:

1) the permanent address of the person or agency making the sworn written statement;

(2) the date, time, and place of the signing of the statement;

(3) the date of birth, race, and sex of the adoptee and any names by which the adoptee has been known;

(4) the relationship of the adoptee to the person or agency giving consent or relinquishment;

(5) the name and address of the adoptee’s mother or father;

(6) that the consent or relinquishment by the person or agency forfeits all rights and obligations of the person or agency with respect to the named adoptee, including any future child support obligation. Giving consent or relinquishment does not relieve a person from the obligation to pay a child support arrearage unless approved by the court;

(7) that consent or relinquishment once given must not be withdrawn except by order of the court upon a finding that it is in the best interests of the child, and that the consent or relinquishment was not given voluntarily or was obtained under duress or through coercion; and that the entry of the final decree of adoption renders any consent or relinquishment irrevocable;

(8) that the person or agency giving the consent or relinquishment understands that consent or relinquishment must not be given if psychological or legal advice, guidance, or counseling is needed or desired and that none is needed or desired;

(9) that the person or agency giving the consent or relinquishment waives further notice of the adoption proceedings, unless the proceedings are contested by another person or agency;

(10) that the person or agency giving the consent or relinquishment is doing so voluntarily, and the consent or relinquishment is not being obtained under duress or through coercion; and

(11) that the person or agency giving the consent or relinquishment has received a copy of the document.

The consent document must be signed by two witnesses, and one of the witnesses must be independent counsel for the relinquishing parent.

A guardian ad litem must still be appointed for the child, and the family court must approve the termination of parental rights which may be done in the same court proceeding where the court makes the adoption final.

TPR and Adoption Can be Denied for “Technical Violations” of the Statute

Although a voluntary termination of parental rights simplifies the process, it is recommended that you use an experienced adoption lawyer to obtain the consent and ensure that all statutory requirements are met, because the courts will refuse to approve the termination – and, therefore, the adoption – if the statutory procedure is not carefully followed and documented.

For example, in Brown v. Baby Girl Harper, the SC Supreme Court found that “substantial compliance” is not enough and refused to approve TPR and adoption where:

  • The birth mother did not sign the consent form in the presence of two witnesses – although both witnesses were present, one of them did not observe the birth mother’s signature, and
  • The witnesses were not present for the birth mother’s discussion of the provisions of the consent form and therefore could not confirm that the consent was given voluntarily.


Whether it is in the context of adoption proceedings or an action brought by DSS to protect a child, if the biological parent does not consent to the termination of their parental rights, the moving party must:

  1. Prove the existence of one or more of the statutory grounds by clear and convincing evidence, and
  2. Show that termination is in the best interest of the child.

What are the Grounds for Terminating Parental Rights?

The grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights are found in SC Code § 63-7-2750 and include:

  • The child has been severely or repeatedly harmed and the court finds it unlikely the home situation will change within 12 months,
  • The child already has been removed from the parent’s home, a placement plan has been put in place, and the parent has not addressed the problems that led to removal,
  • The parent willfully fails to visit or support the child for six months while the child has lived outside the home,
  • The parent suffers from a medical condition that makes appropriate childcare impossible, and it is unlikely the condition will change (such conditions may include addiction, mental illness, or a severe physical disability),
  • The parent has abandoned the child,
  • The state had the child in foster care for at least 15 of the past 22 months,
  • The parent has pleaded guilty or no contest to charges of physical abuse of the child that led to admission to the hospital,
  • The parent has been convicted or pled guilty to murdering the child’s other parent, or
  • The child’s conception was the result of criminal sexual conduct committed by the parent.

Termination of parental rights is not taken lightly in SC, and there is a presumption that it is in a child’s best interest to remain with their biological parent.

Family court attorneys often refer to TPR as the “death penalty” of family court. It is permanent, irreversible, and there is a very high burden of proof to accomplish an involuntary termination.


If you need assistance in 1) obtaining a termination of parental rights or 2) fighting a termination of parental rights, contact your family law attorney on the Axelrod team immediately.

If you are seeking to adopt a child in SC, your SC adoption attorney at Axelrod and Associates will help you at every step of the process from your initial decision to the final hearing in the family court.

Call Axelrod and Associates today at 843-916-9300 or fill out our contact form to set up a consultation.

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