Termination Of Parental Rights In California

When a court issues an order terminating parental rights in California, that action brings a permanent end to the legal relationship between a parent and child. Termination of parental rights affects not only custody and visitation rights, but also financial matters such as child support obligations and inheritance rights.

In many cases, termination of parental rights is necessary to enable an adoption to take place. A parent may voluntarily give up parental rights or the court can order termination of rights without a parent’s consent. If you need to seek a termination of parental rights or someone has filed a petition to terminate your rights as a parent, it is important to understand what is involved, what will happen, and your rights in the process. Regardless of whether you are pursuing the termination or trying to stop it, you should consider working with an attorney who understands the process.

Grounds for Terminating Parenting Rights

California statutes provide for a legal proceeding to have a minor “declared free from the custody and control of either or both parents” when certain situations occur. The court must be given clear and convincing evidence that one or more grounds for termination of parental rights exists.

Grounds for legally terminating a parent’s rights under the statute include:

  • Abandonment
  • Neglect
  • Cruelty
  • Inability to parent due to abuse of alcohol or controlled substances
  • Conviction of a felony
  • Mental illness or developmental disability
  • Moral depravity

The statutes describe conduct that can be considered sufficient to terminate rights under each of these factors. For instance, Section 7822 of the Family Code specifies a parent can lose parental rights on grounds of abandonment if they leave a child in the care and custody of another person for a year or more without making any provision for support or communication and with the intent to abandon the child. Evidence that the parent had the intent to abandon the child could include failing to provide identification for the child, failing to make reasonable efforts to communicate with the child, and failing to provide support for an extended period.

Reasons to Seek Termination of Parental Rights

There are numerous different reasons someone might want to bring an action to terminate parent rights. When one parent has remarried, the new spouse may want to adopt the child. Generally, this requires a termination of the biological parent’s parental rights. However, there may be other options available if the biological parent consents to the adoption.

When one parent has a drug or alcohol problem that could pose a danger to a child’s mental, emotional, or physical health, the other parent may want to terminate that parent’s rights so they cannot put the child at risk by gaining custody or visitation privileges in the future.

In many cases, when one or both parents have abandoned a child into the care of grandparents, other family, or even non-related friends, the caregivers and child develop such a bond that they want to seek adoption. It is usually necessary to terminate parental rights to enable the child to be legally adopted by the individuals who have been caring for the child.

Courts Will Be Focused on the Child’s Best Interests

Whether you are trying to terminate a parent’s rights or you are fighting against a petition to terminate your rights as a parent, it is crucial to remember that the court will be considering the child’s best interests at all times. When you frame your arguments and present evidence to support your position, you need to show why your goal aligns with what is best for the child.

For instance, if you are seeking to adopt the child, it is not persuasive to tell the judge how much you’ve always wanted to be a parent. That focuses on your needs rather than the child’s. Instead, you need to explain the ways that you can further the child’s development and maintain valuable relationships in the child’s life. Your attorney can help you build the strongest arguments in favor of your position.

Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC Can Help You in an Action to Terminate Parental Rights

Termination of parental rights is a serious and emotionally complex legal action with long-term implications for a child and the family as a whole. When a parent does not agree to a voluntary termination of rights, it is important to work with a legal team that understands how to effectively pursue your objectives.

The Certified Family Law Specialists and associates at Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC, have over 300 years of collective experience helping families achieve the right arrangements to protect a child’s best interests. To find out how we can assist with a proceeding to terminate parental rights, schedule a consultation with our team today.

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