The Delaware State Courts will be closed on Monday, May 27, 2024 for Memorial Day. Justice of the Peace Court 11 (New Castle County) and Court 7 (Kent County) will remain open 24 hours and Justice of the Peace Court 3 (Sussex County) will be open from 6AM-Midnight (no new cases after 11PM).

Termination of Parental Rights Overview

Click Here for an Answer Packet What is the Definition of Termination of Parental Rights?

The intent of Termination of Parental Rights (“TPR”) is to legally and permanently terminate the relationship between a child and his/her parent.  The law about TPR is found within Chapter 11 of Title 13 of the Delaware Code. 

What Happens After Parental Rights are Terminated?

After the Court issues a TPR Order, parental rights are usually then transferred to another person through an Adoption Order.  The prospective adoptive parent must file a Petition for Adoption.  Once an Adoption Order is issued, the adoptive parent then becomes the permanent legal parent of the child and will have all of the rights, duties, privileges and obligations recognized by the law between parents and their children.   The law about adoption is contained within Chapter 9 of Title 13 of the Delaware Code.

What is the Effect of Losing One's Parental Rights?

Terminating a person’s parental rights is an important decision with significant consequences. Once parental rights are terminated, the individual will no longer be a legal parent to the child. This means that all of the individual’s rights and obligations to the child are extinguished (with the exception of outstanding child support arrearages). Once parental rights are terminated, other individuals may adopt the child and become the child’s legal parent. The new legal parents will have all of the rights and obligations that the natural parent once had.

What is the Effect of Losing One's Parental Rights on Inheritance?

Both the individual whose parental rights were terminated and that individual’s relatives lose all rights of inheritance from the child. Accordingly, the child will no longer have rights of inheritance from the individual whose rights were terminated or from that individual’s relatives.

If the individual whose parental rights were terminated still wants the child to inherit from him or her, then he or she must include the child in his or her will.

Who Can Ask the Family Court for a TPR (i.e. who can Petition for TPR)?

A Petition for TPR may be filed in the State of Delaware by any of the following:

  1. A parent or presumed father of a child;
  2. A relative (as defined by 10 Del. C. § 901) of a child;
  3. DSCYF;
  4. Any agency granted a license by DSCYF to place children for adoption (a “licensed agency”); or
  5. A guardian or permanent guardian of the child.

Who Can Seek to Adopt (i.e. who can Petition for Adoption)?

A Petition for Adoption may be filed in the State of Delaware if you are:

  • Over 21 years old; AND
  • A Delaware resident or a person with whom a child has been placed for adoption under Section 904 of Title 13; AND
    • An unmarried person; OR
    • A divorced or legally separated person petitioning individually; OR
    • A married couple jointly seeking to adopt who are NOT legally separated or living apart from each other; OR
    • A non-married couple petitioning jointly, provided that they are cohabiting.

“Cohabiting” means regularly residing with an adult of the same or opposite sex, if the parties hold themselves out as a couple. 13 Del. C. § 1512(g).

What is the Termination of Parental Rights Process?
  1. The Petitioner files a Petition to Terminate Parental rights
  2. The Respondent has 20 days in which to file an Answer to that Petition.
  3. A social study and report must be completed.
  4. A Judge will hold a hearing, taking into consideration whether the parents agree to the termination.
  5. The Judge will issue an order either granting or denying the Termination of Parental Rights.

What are the Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights?

When alleging facts in a Petition For Termination of Parental Rights, the petitioner must indicate at least one Ground for Termination of Parental Rights for each child. The grounds can be found on the last three pages of the Petition for Termination of Parental Rights or in Chapter 11 of Title 13 of the Delaware Code. View a sample of the Grounds that are included with the Petition.

What is a Social Study and Report?

A Social Study and Report is a report that provides detailed information about the Petitioner and the child which will help the Court determine whether parental rights should be transferred to the Petitioner. A worker from a child-placing agency will talk to all of the people involved with the case including you, the child's parents and the child. The worker will then write a report and submit it to the Court. The report will include information about the following: The child and the child's background; You and your home where the child will be living; The child's physical and mental condition; The suitability of the placement; Whether all of the requirements under Delaware law have been met; AND The agency's recommendation regarding whether the termination of parental rights should be granted. Please note! A Social Study and Report can be very expensive and it is the Petitioner's duty to pay for the study. Not all Child Placement Agencies will provide a Social Study and Report. Please contact individual Child Placement Agencies to see if it performs this service and to determine costs.

Where can I find a Child Placement Agency?

Delaware Agencies Licensed for Adoption Services