Child and dad

What Is the Preserving Family Bonds Act?

Both houses of the New York State legislature recently passed a bill aimed at preserving the future contact rights of parents whose parental rights were terminated. After passing in both the State Senate and Assembly, the bill—called the “Preserving Family Bonds Act” may soon become law, pending the signature of Governor Andrew Cuomo.

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What Does the Preserving Family Bonds Act Address?

Under current New York law, a parent can agree to a “conditional surrender” of their parental rights in favor of a foster or adoptive parent to preserve the possibility of future contact with their child. Under a conditional surrender arrangement, the adoptive parent or guardian agrees to allow continued contact between the child and their birthparent upon the termination of their parental rights.

When a parent faces legal proceedings aimed at terminating their parental rights, they might be offered the choice of signing a surrender agreement conditioned on limited future contact or taking their case to trial. However, if the parent decides to defend themselves in the termination proceeding and is unsuccessful, they forfeit the opportunity to request a contact order, regardless of whether all interested parties and the judge agree that continued contact is in the child’s best interest.

The Preserving Family Bonds Act is a law that is intended to let judges decide issues regarding continued visitation for people whose parental rights were terminated. Supporters of the bill include attorneys who represent children and parents in juvenile rights cases. They argue that severing the relationship between a child and their birthparent—even abusive and neglectful ones—can be traumatic and detrimental to the child’s healthy development.

However, opponents of the bill argue that cases where parental rights have been terminated mostly involve a parent whose conduct demonstrates a significant level of abuse or neglect. Among those who oppose the measure are New York foster-care and adoption agencies. They argue that children need stable, permanent environments and that the Preserving Family Bonds Act disrupts the stability that a foster parent provides. Opponents also say that the proposed law will deter people from adopting children, knowing that their own rights and relationship could be disrupted under a contact order.

New York Law on Terminating Parental Rights

Under New York law, a parent’s rights may be terminated in the following ways:

  • Voluntary surrender
  • Abandonment
  • Permanent neglect
  • Mental illness
  • Intellectual disability

Before a foster or adoptive parent can exercise parental rights over a child, the parental rights of the child’s birth parents must first be terminated. When voluntarily surrendering their rights under an agreement, a parent negotiates for contact rights. However, in termination proceedings based on abandonment or neglect, the court is concerned with serving the child’s best interests. A court will only terminate a parent’s rights if there is clear and convincing evidence that doing so would be necessary to protect the child’s safety and wellbeing.

For Legal Advice, Contact the Law Office of Tzvi Y. Hagler, P.C. Today

If you are looking for professional, sound legal counsel regarding a matter concerning New York family law, you can count on the Law Office of Tzvi Y. Hagler, help. With a skilled attorney like Attorney Hagler at your side, you can confidently move forward knowing your legal interests will be promoted.

Call the Law Office of Tzvi Y. Hagler, (516) 514-3868 or complete an online request form today.