AR: Parental Rights Should Not Be Terminated Just Because Parent Incarcerated for Substantial Time

A 7 year old boy has been raised by his foster mother for five years. The boy’s father has been in jail practically since the day he was born. The child’s mother is also imprisoned.

While in prison, the father made efforts to keep tabs on his son, to contact him, to have visitation with him and to obtain custody of him.

Possibly in anticipation of the father’s impending release on probation, the foster mother instituted proceedings to adopt the child.

At trial, the court terminated the father’s parental rights and approved the adoption.

But, on the father’s appeal, the judgment was reversed. The appellate court held that the father should not automatically be deprived of his parental rights just because he had been incarcerated. The father, by his efforts, had earned the opportunity to pursue visitation and, ultimately, custody upon his imminent release.

The ruling appears to have been grounded solely in parental rights. It did not appear from the report whether the court considered any rights the child might have or the best interests of the child after five years living with his foster mother and probably with no memory of either of his biological parents.

The boy’s mother does not appear to have attempted any contact with the child nor to have participated in the adoption proceedings or appeal in any way.

Read more in this Little Rock, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article: Imprisonment no bar to son, judges decide – They void lower court’s adoption OK.