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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.

Understanding and Preparing for a Move-Away Case

A Move Away case is one where a parent seeks to relocate to some other geographic area with a child they share with a parent who will remain local. Recently, there has been a dramatic increase in requests for consultations and representation in move-away cases. Some of the requests are due to the simple desire to leave California and reside in another state. Others have job opportunities in another state, or would like to be closer to family. We’ve also received requests from parents who would like to oppose the move-away request by the other parent. Whatever the case may be, understanding the intricacies and legalities of move-away cases is paramount to prevailing in such a case and often that is concurrently doing what is best for the child.

What is a move-away case?

A move-away is a particular type of custody case where two parents have a dispute or disagreement about what's going to happen with their kid(s) when either parent is going to relocate and there is an existing custodial arrangement. For example, they've got a schedule, maybe the parties have been separated for a couple years, or even a few months, but they have an existing de facto or status quo custodial relationship. The arrangement, or custodial relationship, could be 50/50, it could be 80/20. Or it may not be a percentage of time, but something like a set number of days during the week, and alternating weekends. When the kids are typically younger in age it is optimal, from a psychological developmental perspective, for a shared arrangement to grant more time to the parent who has more capability to be home and care for them (if such a circumstance exists).

Whatever the very legitimate and appropriate reason for the existing arrangements, whether by court order or not, the court will make a decision, or the parties have made a decision, that the existing arrangement is in the best interest of the child. A move-away case is a significant undertaking that happens with some frequency--And that frequency is increasing with today’s societal mobility, economic uncertainty, the ability to find more “virtual” employment opportunities, new relationships being formed from long distance, and ever changing migration patterns.

There is an abundance of law from the state of California, that relates to how the court should handle these cases, so that they're handled consistently the same. Yet the tactics and strategies exist that increase the probability of success, whether seeking to relocate with the child(ren), or opposing such a move.

How does a move-away case differ from a visitation case?

Custody time (also called “time-share”) is a plan for how the parents will share time with the children. This may also be referred to as “custody time” or “visitation” or the like. It is a shorthand way to refer to the amount of time a child is with each respective parent. Such court orders vary, depending on the best interest of the children, the situation of the parents, and other factors. If the case is more about minimal schedule changes, it's not a custody case. It's what we call a time-share type case. These cases are typically easier to resolve because we're not talking about a dramatic change in a custodial arrangement.

What many parents fail to understand…

The foundation for every custodial arrangement is what is in the best interest of the children, which includes relocation. So often, parents talk about “my time,” and they use the word “my kids”. They assert that they are entitled to “their rights”. Those parents are incorrect, and will face tremendous challenges if they are involved in litigation. Custody matters will always be about what's best for the children. The law starts from a presumption that frequent and continuous contact with both parents is what is best for the children. Many people confuse that to be a presumption that this naturally equates to a 50/50 arrangement. This is simply not true. There are so many factors involved in determining what is best for the child, outside of the parents’ opinions. The decision needs to be carefully made by the court in order to avoid having detrimental effect on the children, or impede the other parent's ongoing relationship and access to the child.

Some things courts will consider when determining move-away requests:

  • Which parent (if either) has an actual, or de facto, primary custodial relationship prior to the requested move
  • The good faith reason for the move (ex. job opportunity) -not designed to simply get away form the ex spouse (this is in turn mitigated if there is a history of Domestic Violence)
  • Distance of the move being considered/requested and the logistical issues raised include travel time, cost, etc.
  • The child’s age can be a large factor in the judge’s decision as it may be more difficult for younger children who haven’t had proper time to develop parent/child relationships-or older children who while more physiologically and psychologically developed and bonded have concurrently formed strong bonds with friends, schools, extended family, etc.
  • Any history of violence within the household(s)
  • The current and historical relationship between the parents
  • Ability to maintain proper medical treatment at both locations
  • The parents’ ability to Co-Parent or a lack of willingness to do so
  • The “best interest” of the child
  • The child’s preference and feelings about the move (depending upon the age)
  • An overall assessment of the “detriment” of the move. This issue was given overriding importance in the most recent California Supreme court case on this subject. In such cases, even where a permanent custody order is in place, the custodial parent’s right to relocate with a child remains subject to the changed circumstance rule. (In re Marriage of LaMusga (2004) 32 Cal.4th 1072) 1088-1089 (LaMusga).

It is important to note the individual elements referenced above are not necessarily equal, nor determinative. The court will look at the totality of the circumstances in assessing the best interest and detriment.

Here in Southern California, a classic example of a move-away could be any distance greater than 30 miles, say Orange County to Riverside County. While this doesn’t seem like a huge distance, commute time needs to be taken into consideration. The freeways are often heavy with traffic and while the distance isn’t tremendous, the time it takes to travel between the two areas could frequently be over two hours on any given weekday. The commute is going to impede a parent from being able to spend enough quality time with the children. More importantly, how is that drive going to affect that child? Is it going to affect the ability of a parent to pick up on Friday evening? This kind of move would also potentially mean a change in school districts and various other factors.

Here’s where it gets complicated…

Once the relocation is defined as a move-away, things can get really, really complicated. Sometimes the status quo may not contain a court order that grants parents the ability to relocate. Some attorneys who craft judgments (and some people without attorneys) don't put all of the necessary language outlined in their judgments into their court orders, relative to custody. As is such, it may be possible that a parent could move and then change visitation later on. It's also possible that doing so could have negative consequences. This is one reason why it is critical that you have a discussion with a competent family law attorney to talk about your options, in your case.

What if there isn’t a court order in place for custody?

The following is a hypothetical situation: Two parents are unmarried and they're already living apart. There is no court order in place for custody of their child. One parent decides that they want to relocate with their child. They decide that they're going to go ahead and move to New York without consulting an attorney.

Guess what is likely to happen in this instance.... The other parent (more likely than not) is going to run into court and ask for an emergency order to have that parent, either not relocate with the child or immediately return the child. The parent who has already moved to New York, has probably settled in, secured employment and has started their new life. However, the court can effectively change the custodial arrangement because the first parent acted improperly and failed to do things the right way.

It's imperative to get a plan in place and follow the plan. The commonly used colloquialism that sometimes “It’s better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission” may work--or may lead to disastrous consequences.

How does a parent looking to move away get permission if they need it?

First, they will need to create a paper trail and reach out to the other party stating intent to move. Ask them what their thoughts are on the matter. It may be received well, it may not. Regardless, communicating the intent, (or possible intent,) in writing is always the first step. If they don't ask and just rush to court, then the court is going to think badly of that person for not asking or trying to work it out with the other parent. This is true whether the parents have court orders or not. Someone who is still in an intact relationship and simply takes off in the middle of the night with the child to a far away place is equally subject to an adverse consequence. While a history of Domestic Violence may mitigate this, it may not eliminate it.

A key point to keep in mind is that the court has no authority to tell a parent that they cannot move. Every adult in the United States has an absolute, unrestricted right to travel. The government cannot say that a parent can't move; that they have to stay here and take care of the children. In fact, what the court does when they engage in a move-away, is start with the presumption that the move is happening. They make orders based upon that expectation. The order will either be that the children move with the parent who is relocating, or that they stay with the non-moving parent. Then arrangements for visitation will be made accordingly.

Move-away cases are not a quick and easy process

Whether or not there is a custody order in place, a plan is needed. After step one, it might be time to file the move-away request with the court. If it is a full on move-away case, it's probably going to take quite some time to get the hearing on it and get it done. That means going to court, certainly doing mediation at court, possibly doing a custodial evaluation, setting the matter for an evidentiary hearing with witnesses and cross examination, dealing with cancellations and postponements that are rabid in the court system, particularly with COVID, and finally, having the hearing and getting a court ruling. And even if the parties get a court ruling, thee law of California mandates that the parent is not allowed to move for 30 days after that ruling. This can really drag out and parents really need to plan for the long haul.

How long does it take to resolve a move-away case?

This depends on the courthouse. If the case is being processed within the public court system, then parents at the mercy of the court. There may be shutdowns because of COVID. It may also take awhile if a psychological evaluation, referred to as a “730 Evaluation,"  is required. There may be a trial set for three days on a move-away case, and then some other case bumps it, and it gets postponed for another two or three months. A short time period might be six to nine months, while a long time period might be a year and a half or more, because of how the legal system works. This is why it is important to get started with the process as soon the parent thinks that they will be moving. Parents should always make a plan and seek legal counsel before they accept a job out of state, buy plane tickets, or hire movers. Then again, bad advice can set you back both in time and in the ultimate likelihood of success.

No two move-away cases are alike...

Please remember, every move-away case, like every custody case, is different. There are unique aspects of each and every one. The one thing that always remains the same is that ultimately, this is about what's best for the children. If the parents have a good co parenting arrangement, that can serve as a basic foundation for resolving things amicably. However, parents should only do so after consulting with competent counsel.

If you are contemplating a move and want to do things the right way, please reach out to us as soon as possible. Our team has extensive experience with move-away cases and we can help you plan for this impactful life change in a way that keeps your children the priority and offers the best possible outcome for your family.


The material and information contained on this website is for general information purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. It does not create an attorney/client relationship in any way, shape or form. Holstrom, Block and Parke are attorneys at law, licensed to practice in the state of California and have based the information presented on US laws. All cases are different and nothing in this content is intended to suggest any particular result for your matter. Holstrom, Block and Parke has no control over and accepts no liability in respect of materials, products or services available on any website which is not under the control of Holstrom, Block and Parke. Certain links in this website will lead to websites which are not under the control of Holstrom, Block and Parke, APLC. When you activate these website links, you will leave the Holstrom, Block and Parke website. Therefore, we have no control over and accept no liability in respect of the materials, products or services available on the third party websites, which are not under control of Holstrom, Block and Parke. There is no substitute for seeking out advice from a competent Family Law professional and you should always consult with an attorney before you rely on this information.

When Your Child Has An "Absent Father"

How do you handle the situation when your child asks where his or her daddy is? What do you say when your child’s father does not want to be part of the family? How can you answer your child’s questions?

Tell your child the truth but no more than they need to know at the time. You could say that he was so young and not ready to be a father. Maybe he lived too far to get involved. Or, he could have needed time to deal with issues on his own. These reasons do not justify his choices; they simply tell your child that his decision had nothing to do with the child.

Try to always remain positive. Sometimes, it’s hard, but a positive and upbeat attitude will get you through a lot. Tell your child over and over again that you love him or her and always will – no matter what they do or what life brings to them. Be patient.

Finally, it is important to share any good memories you have with your child about his or her father. Try not to bad-mouth him – don’t try to turn your child against his or her father. You never know – he could resolve his issues and show up down the road.

You cannot change the fact that your child’s father is not in the picture, but you can always assure your child of the love you have for him or her and that you are not going anywhere – you will always be there for your child.

There are resources, if you have questions about parental rights and custody matter when dealing with an absent father, or maybe you want to get child support, the law offices of Holstrom, Block & Parke Family Law & divorce attorneys can help answer all your questions. We understand the challenges that come with being a single parent, speak to one of our attorneys and get guidance you need, we will be there every step of the way.

Adopting A Baby

What You Should Know About Adopting A Baby:

Adopting a child is a wonderful, life-changing experience.

Some couples want to help a homeless child find a nurturing home while others have the need to raise a child.

Did you know that there are approximately 650,000 children in out-of-home placement in the United States? About 20 percent are available for adoption – some with special needs. Unfortunately, many adopting parents are unaware of the existing or potential problems an adopted child brings with him or her to their new home.

Being unprepared to raise a special needs or high-risk child unnecessarily drains resources and adds a lot of stress on the family. While most adoptions go well, some do not.

Many children up for adoption have been traumatized by their birth families or foster care families. Too often adoptive parents are told, “All this child needs is love and everything will be fine.” This is not always true.

Every parent, biological or adopted, should know as much as possible about the attachment process – the life-long impact it has on children. It is one of the fundamental processes necessary for survival and care-giving. It’s a process that enhances the safety and security of an infant in getting his or her needs met.

To improve your chances for a successful adoption, you need to be as fully informed and prepared as possible. Read all you can on the subject and ask every question you have. This is a major decision not only for you but also the child you bring home.

Being a parent is one of the most enriching experiences in life. And, though the job is often all-consuming and demanding, it certainly can expand your capacity for love and fun in ways you never imaged.

If adoption is something you are thinking about, contact the family law offices of Holstrom, Block & Parke. While many other areas of family law see the attorney helping in the breakup of a family, adoption allows an attorney to create or expand families.

Our attorneys understand that children and family are what matters most in people’s lives. Contact us today – let us help you expand your family.

How Can I Establish My Rights As A Dad?

In today’s world, the mother is not always the sole caregiver for her child – many fathers participate in raising their child – and fight to obtain their parental rights if they are not recognized as the child’s legal father.

California courts believe that children have a right to know who their parents are.

If you are an unmarried father, you have the right to file a paternity action and be legally recognized as the child’s father – giving you the right to visitation as well. As the recognized father, you also have the obligation to pay child support.

Keep in mind – unless you legally establish the paternity of your child, you have no say in his or her upbringing. The child’s mother can legally move away with the child without your consent – you don’t even have the right to visit your child.

Legal issues involving a child can be complex and emotionally charged. At this difficult time, you need the help of an attorney you can trust to handle your case with the utmost skill, compassion and professionalism.

The Riverside family law offices of Holstrom, Block & Parke is committed to improving the lives of children and their families. We push hard for efficient, positive outcomes, while doing everything possible to reach a resolution smoothly and efficiently. Our attorneys understand that this is a challenging time and believe that you deserve attentive and individualized service.

Once the relationship has been legally recognized, both parents will have the same rights as divorced parents have in terms of child custody, visitation (parenting time) and child support.

Our attorneys have extensive experience representing both unmarried mothers and unmarried fathers in these matters. Wherever your interests lie, at our firm you’ll find the strong and effective legal representation you need to forcefully assert your rights, because we understand the bond that exists between a child and a father and ever be deprived of sharing their love with the miracle they help create.

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The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.