Would it be appropriate or not to terminate the parental rights of a parent?
California Family Code section 7820, specifically California Family Code section 78222, provides the basis for which you could seek termination of parental rights. One basis upon which termination can occur is if the child has been abandoned. That means the other parent has provided no financial support for that child, has little or no contact with a child for over a year, their conduct shows the intent to abandon the child.
If you are able to meet those elements you would be able to convince the court the other parent has abandoned the child and as such you could file a petition to terminate their parental rights. This essentially means they are no longer going to be the parent.
Imagine for a moment that it is the mother trying to terminate the father’s parental right. If she succeeds, then father no longer has the right to for instance has the right to Legal Custody which is the ability of making decisions on the health, welfare and safety of the child. Furthermore, the father will no longer have the right to Visitation or Custody either. They are effectively cut out from the child’s life.
That is an example of a manner in which you can terminate parental rights within the category of abandonment.
The family code also defines who has standing to seek parental termination. Our examples above are from the point of view of a biological parent, i.e. one biological parent seeking to terminate the parental rights of the other biological parent.
People who have the right to seek parental termination would be the legal parents of a child, potentially a grandparent of child, potentially a step parent of the child, or an adult who has actually taken over the custody and care of a child due to the legal parents’ absence. Those are examples of individuals who have standing.
The other basis to parental termination include child neglect, the unfitness of parent, the risk of serious physical, mental or emotional injury to a child if they return or remain at the home of either or both parents.
For instance consider the case of someone who is not the legal parent but who has been caring for the child for a period of time in the absence of the legal parents. To seek termination the child must have been left in their care by the custodial parent or both parents for at least 6 months and during those 6 months there has been no contact with the child or financial support from the responsible parties. There will need to be some evidence of intent to abandon the child. That’s an example under which, if you’re not the legal guardian or legal parent of a child, you could seek to become the custodian and terminate the parental rights of the other parent.
Termination of parental rights are combined with a Step-Parent Adoption. There is a specific procedure by which you would combine the two together where if you’re doing a step-parent adoption you would be filing it concurrently with a parental termination proceeding and if and when the latter is granted by the court then the step-parent adoption would be completed and the court would make an order for the step parent to become the legal parent of the child.
Parental terminations can also be done by stipulation. What we’ve talked about so far is the process by which people go to court, file a petition, serve the petition, there’s often a response to the petition and then there’s a court hearing to determine whether termination should occur. However, the parent whose rights are being sought to be terminated can stipulate to terminate those rights. That is they can agree with either a step parent, or the parent responsible for the care of the child, or with the other parent that they give up their parental rights.
Examples from previous cases:
Biological mother passed away from cancer and biological father had not been involved in the life of the child for at least two years preceding the petition being filed for termination of parental rights, had not provided for any form of support in fact he specifically told the mother who past that he had no interest in being in the life of the child. Our client was the deceased’s sister. So the sister of the biological mother took over the care of the child when mother who had custody at the time passed and the sister took care of that child for over six months. She was able to demonstrate that the biological father had no intent to financially support his child or being involved in any way in his life. We were able to successfully prove the intent to abandon the child and therefore terminate parental rights of the father. The sister became the legal guardian of this child.
We’ve had another case with a similar scenario except in this case when we advised the father of our intentions he signed the stipulation and said “Great I don’t want to be responsible for Child Support, I have no intention of spending time with a child and I’m happy to give up my rights.”
If you are faced with a request by someone else to terminate your parental rights give us a call because we have not only defended these types of actions, but we have also prosecuted them.
Naturally if you’re on the defending side of it we are going to need to work hard at demonstrating that you did not intend to abandon the child, that you’re stable, you have the intent to spend time with the child, that you are going to start providing financial support, basically all the things they say you haven’t done you are going to want to begin doing.
If you are seeking to terminate parental rights whether you are the other parent, or an adult who is currently responsible for the child such as a grandparent or a relative taking care of child, call us. We have experience dealing with these matters and bringing them to completion successfully.