Terminating Parental Rights

Termination can be either voluntary or involuntary

Terminating Parental Rights in California

Working with Our Southern California Family Law Attorneys

Every child has the right to a permanent home that provides for his or her well-being in an environment free of abuse and/or neglect. So, what happens when a child’s birth parents are unable or unwilling to provide such a home? In some cases, adoption is determined to be the appropriate plan, in which case termination of parental rights becomes necessary. Termination of parental rights can be either voluntary or involuntary and ends the legal parent-child relationship. It is a court order that permanently severs the legal parent-child relationship when the court finds one or both parents to be unfit, or when one or both parents consent to giving up their parental rights voluntarily.

When Is Termination Court-Ordered?

Termination of parental rights is not granted by the courts on request or by mutual agreement of the parents as a means of solving child custody, visitation, or child support disputes. When parental rights are terminated involuntarily, the court is required to determine by clear and convincing evidence that the parent is unfit. In addition, the court must decide whether severing the parent-child relationship is in the child’s best interests.

Once this relationship has been terminated, the child is legally free to be placed for adoption with the objective of securing a more stable, permanent family environment. In order for the child to be put up with adoption, it is necessary to ensure the rights of all persons having a direct legal relationship to the child are terminated. If this is not accomplished, the birth parent could possibly challenge and successfully invalidate the child’s adoption.

The most common statutory grounds for determining parental unfitness:
  • Severe abuse and/or neglect of this child or other children in the home
  • Sexual abuse
  • Abandonment of the child
  • Long-term mental illness
  • Long-term alcohol and/or drug-induced incapacity of the parent(s)
  • Failure to support or maintain contact with the child