What is a Termination of Parental Rights?

Terminating the rights of a parent is one of the most serious decisions that can be made in family court. When a parent’s rights are terminated under California law, the parent is no longer the child’s legal parent. When those rights are terminated, all of the parent’s rights and obligations end.

Parental rights can only be terminated by court order. This article will discuss how rights can be terminated, what happens after a parent’s rights are terminated, and how parental rights can be reinstated.

How Parental Rights Can Be Terminated

There are a couple of different ways California courts can terminate parental rights.

Voluntary Termination

While it may sound like it would be simple to sign away your rights, the courts in California will weigh the parent’s wish to terminate their rights with the child’s right to have two parents. This means a parent must have a valid reason to terminate their parental rights voluntarily.

In the case of adoption, the courts are willing to grant a voluntary termination of rights. Stepparent adoption is an example where the court may grant the termination request. That would mean that the custody of the child will then be given to the other parent. However, it could also be granted to a stepparent.

Federal law is more lenient than California law regarding the protection of children in these cases. The state has laws that outline reasons why a parent’s rights may be terminated. In any case, California family law courts make the best interest of the child the highest priority.

Involuntary Termination

As stated, the child’s best interest is the main priority in parental rights cases. Some cases require the court to involuntarily terminate a parent’s rights to ensure the child’s safety.

This is, however, only done in severe cases. Here are some of the most common reasons a parent could involuntarily lose their rights.

  • A substance or alcohol addiction that prohibits them from being a fit parent
  • Severe child abuse or neglect
  • Abandonment
  • Sexual abuse against the child
  • Failing to uphold parenting or financial obligations for a prolonged time
  • Mental impairments that prohibit them from being a fit parent
  • Being convicted of felonies
  • Committing a violent crime or domestic violence against a member of their family
  • Receiving a long prison sentence, especially if the child would be left in the foster care system

Keep in mind that this list doesn’t include all the factors that could cause a parent’s rights to be terminated. Typically, the courts won’t terminate the rights if the petitioner can’t prove that it is in the best interest of the child’s health, welfare, and safety.

What Happens After the Termination

After a parent’s rights are terminated, the parent-child relationship is legally ended. That means the parent has no rights to custody or visitation, they are no longer responsible for the child’s actions, and they generally will no longer have to pay child support. The child will also lose the right to that parent’s social security, medical benefits, and inheritance.

If the rights of only one parent are terminated, all rights and responsibilities are passed to the other parent. If one relinquishes their parental rights for the sake of adoption, the adoption can then proceed.

When the courts terminate the rights of both parents, CPS (Child Protective Services) will find a new home for the child. Their priority is to place the child with their biological family, such as a grandparent, aunt, or uncle.

Restoring Parental Rights

In California, if parental rights have been terminated, parental rights can be reinstated. However, it can be challenging, and the child must petition the court to restore the parent’s rights. The parent cannot. The child must file the petition within three years of the termination, and the child cannot have been adopted during that time.

If the child is over twelve years old, they can attend the hearing to speak to the court about the original termination or the reinstatement. If the issues that caused the termination have been rectified, and the court decides it’s in the child’s best interest, they may approve the reinstatement.

Get Representation You Can Count on With Azemika & Azemika

Whether defending your rights or petitioning for termination, having an experienced legal team by your side is essential. Your legal team can focus on the best interest of your child while preparing a solid case on your behalf.

The partners at Azemika & Azemika have a combined total of over 56 years of experience handling family law cases. Our years of experience allow us to provide knowledgeable and aggressive representation to clients in Kern County in the case of divorce, child custody, visitation, spousal and child support, paternity, adoption, and abandonment.
Contact us today to work with our award-winning team.

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