Terminating Parental Rights

Termination can be either voluntary or involuntary

Advocacy to Help You Protect a Child’s Best Interests

Before a child can be adopted, even by a stepparent, it is often necessary to terminate the parental rights of one or both of the child’s natural parents. This is a delicate process requiring proper legal preparation and consideration of the emotional factors at play.

The seasoned team of Certified Family Law Specialists and associates at Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC have over 300 years of combined experience negotiating and litigating sensitive issues such as termination of parental rights with diplomacy and tact. We understand the harm a family can suffer when issues are subjected to intense scrutiny and abrasive conflict. Our team strives to minimize tension while we work to reach the right solutions for a child’s future.

What Does it Mean to Terminate Parental Rights?

When a court terminates parental rights, they issue an order that permanently ends the relationship between that parent and the child. This terminate affects a wide array of factors including:

  • Inheritance rights
  • Rights to custody and visitation
  • Child support obligations
  • Liability for the conduct of the child

A birth parent may still feel some connection with a child after parental rights are terminated. For instance, sometimes a parent who gives up a child for adoption later develops a relationship with that child. But any relationship from that point on is emotional rather than legal.

Rights Can Be Terminated Voluntarily

In many adoption cases, birth parents will terminate their parental rights voluntarily. However, when a parent does not consent to give up parental rights or a parent cannot be located, then it is necessary to pursue legal termination in court.

Even when parental rights are surrendered voluntarily, California courts generally do not provide a prepared form for this legal action. Instead, it is necessary to draft a legal pleading to formally request the court for termination of parental rights as well as a citation for hearing. It is essential to ensure pleadings and other documents are drafted with the correct terms in order to gain court approval.

Grounds for Terminating Parental Rights

When asking the court to terminate parental rights, a petitioner needs to specify one or more grounds or legally-acceptable reasons for this drastic action. California law provides six grounds that justify termination of parental rights:

  1. Abandonment of the child—the child has been left without identification, or left with others for six months or more with the intent to abandon and no support
  2. Neglect or cruelty to the child
  3. Disability of parent due to alcohol or controlled substances
  4. Moral depravity of a parent
  5. Conviction of a felony—the nature of the crime must be one which demonstrates parents’ unfitness
  6. Mental illness or developmental disability of the parent

In many cases, the parents must have lost custody of the child to the state for at least a year in order for their parental rights to be terminated.

If one parent wants to terminate the other parent’s parental rights on the grounds of abandonment, the parent seeking termination will need to demonstrate that for at least a year, the other parent provided no financial support for the child and made little or no contact with the child and had the intent to abandon the child.

Fighting an Attempt to Terminate Parental Rights

When someone files a petition to terminate a parent’s parental rights, a copy of the petition must be given to that parent. If the parent wants to fight the attempt at termination and keep their parental rights, they need to take action quickly. The appropriate step is to file a contested response to the petition. The response should discuss issues raised in the petition to terminate and arguments as to why those assertions are incorrect.

Explanations backed up with evidence can make all the difference in the case. If a parent is seeking to terminate the other parent’s rights on grounds of abandonment, for instance, and that parent can show they attempted to mail letters and checks but they were returned for an incorrect address, that demonstrates the parent did not intend to abandon the child. Or if termination is sought based on grounds of drug use, a parent can show that they are undergoing treatment and can provide a stable home for the child. An attorney familiar with termination issues can help prepare a response and court appearance to demonstrate why parental rights should not be terminated.

Knowledgeable Legal Assistance to Reach Your Goals for Parental Rights

At Holstrom, Block & Parke, we are dedicated to helping clients achieve results that are best for their family and their future. If you are seeking termination of parental rights to secure a child’s future, our team has the experience to advocate effectively and reach your goals.

Contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation and get started moving toward the best future.

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