In most cases, yes. Someone convicted of a felony does not automatically lose their parental rights. You cannot lose these rights simply because you went to prison. However, there are some situations in which you could lose your parental rights if you have a felony conviction.
Will the state take away your rights as a parent if you are convicted of a felony?
Typically, no. For most felony convictions, you will not lose your parental rights. But that’s not the case for all felonies. If you are convicted of murder, manslaughter or other serious felonies, the state can petition to take away your parental rights without any other cause.
When can the state take parental rights away from someone convicted of a felony?
The state can terminate your parental rights if you commit a very serious crime. However, there are other situations where they can take your rights away. One example is if your child is in foster care for more than 15 of 22 consecutive months. If you fail to keep contact with your child or children. If you do not get in touch with your child for more than six months, your parental rights can be taken from you.
How can you make sure to keep your parental rights if you are going to prison?
Given the nature of the law, you should make childcare plans if you will be incarcerated. There are a few things you can do.
- Plan for their care. The foster care mandate only applies to state-sponsored care. If your child stays with a friend or a relative, it does not count. Plan to have someone look after your children while you are away.
- Put money aside. You may have a financial responsibility to your child while you are in prison. Make sure that you can meet it. If you can, put money into an account to pay any child support or alimony. Put someone you trust in charge of sending those funds where they need to go.
- Keep in touch. Make regular contact with your child. Write letters, send emails and call them if you can. Be sure to document each time you contact them. Remember, all communication from prison costs money. You’ll need to budget for this, too.
- Stay clean and sober once you’re out. Substance abuse can be a common response to stress. But it can also cost you your parental rights if you’re a convicted felon. Avoid drugs and alcohol to ensure you maintain your rights as a parent.
In most cases, you will keep your parental rights as a convicted felon. However, a conviction for murder or manslaughter could cost you those rights. You can also lose these rights if your children have to go to state-sponsored foster care for 15 out of 22 months. Other ways you can lose your rights are if you do not meet your financial responsibilities or fail to keep in touch with your child or children. With planning, you should be able to keep your parental rights.