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What should I do if I've been accused of abuse?

One of the most difficult parts of family law is when a parent is facing involuntary termination of his or her parental rights. While each state has its own specific guidelines on what constitutes legal grounds for the termination of parental rights, this usually becomes part of the discussions when there is evidence to support allegations of child abuse or neglect, abandonment, severe mental illness of the parent or ongoing issues with drug or alcohol. It is also possible to lose your parental rights if you have been convicted of certain violent felonies against a family member.

Divorce is known for bringing out the worst in people, and if a custody battle is involved, it is not unheard of for one party to make false allegations about the other in an attempt to get them legally removed from the situation. This also happens in custody disputes involving couples who were never married or when a father who was previously unaware of the child tries to establish paternity and begins to be a part of the child's life.

It is also very difficult — if not impossible — in most cases to have parental rights reinstated once they have been terminated. This is why it is important to stay proactive in any custody situation and discuss everything with your attorney.

If you are facing these allegations, it's normal to be upset and anxious about what may happen. These are very serious accusations and can have an ongoing impact on your reputation in the community even if no action is taken. As soon as you find out that you have been accused of something that may be grounds to terminate your parental rights, it's important to talk to an attorney about your options and how to navigate the situation moving forward.

Source: FindLaw, "Terminating Parental Rights," accessed Nov. 13, 2015

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