Two of the most common grounds I use to terminate the parental rights of an individual when my clients are seeking to adopt a child are willful failure to support the child and willful failure to visit with the child.
Though I may technically have the grounds to terminate the parent’s rights, I have to show the judge by clear and convincing evidence that the parent has willfully failed to visit or support the child. What is “clear and convincing evidence?” It is evidence that satisfies the judge that there is a high degree of probability that the elements for the ground to terminate the parental rights of the biological parent are satisfied.
This burden is fairly easy to prove if the biological parent does not show up for court because my client is the only one presenting testimony and evidence. If I anticipate that the biological parent will show up to court, I ensure that I have enough evidence to overcome the burden of proof by clear and convincing evidence.
The most difficult element I have to show in both grounds is the element "willful." I have to keep this in mind when preparing for the trial. It is fairly easy to show whether or not the biological parent supported the child or not. What is more difficult to prove by clear and convincing evidence is whether or not the biological parent willfully failed to support the child. A couple of examples of the facts that helped prove beyond clear and convincing evidence that the biological parent willfully failed to support the child can be found at this link. This same burden of proof of course also applies to willful failure to visit.
The grounds for TPR are found in Section 63-7-2570 of South Carolina Code of Laws, as amended.