The raising of a child is a very delicate matter, especially when one of
the child’s parents does not want the other parent involved in the
child’s life. In many cases, the mother is raising the child and
for some reason she feels it is in her child’s best interests if
the father is not in the child’s life. This typically happens when
the father was physically abusive to the mother or child, or when he is
a “deadbeat dad” due to addiction.
However, dads aren’t the only ones losing their parental rights.
Sometimes, it’s the biological mother who has abandoned her child,
who took to the streets because of a drug addiction, or who ran away from
motherhood because it was too much for her to bear.
California, like most states, takes a person’s parental rights very
seriously. The state does not strip a person of their parental rights
without much thought and consideration into the circumstances of the case.
There are instances, however, where it is in the child’s best interests
to terminate a mother’s or father’s parental rights. Continue
reading to learn when and how parental rights are terminated in California.
When Are Parental Rights Terminated?
To “terminate” someone’s parental rights means a court
issues an order that permanently ends the legal relationship between a
parent and child. This court order terminates the following rights:
- Child custody
- Child support
- Medical insurance
- Social Security
- Liability for the child’s misconduct
Parental rights can be terminated voluntarily by a parent or they can be
terminated involuntarily and enforced by a family court. Usually, parental
rights are involuntarily terminated to allow for a stepparent, agency,
or independent adoption.
Often, parental rights are voluntarily terminated by fathers who have no
desire to be in their children’s lives and they wish to end their
legal obligation to pay child support. This frequently occurs when the
father did not have a meaningful relationship with the child’s mother
or when he barely knew her.
Voluntary termination of parental rights can also happen when the father
was married to another woman at the time of the child’s birth. On
the other hand, sometimes the mother simply doesn’t want the father
involved because she doesn’t love or like him, and she prefers to
raise the child without the father’s involvement.
What About Adoption Cases?
Suppose a mother wants to put her baby up for adoption but the father does
not consent, or he cannot be located. In that case, the mother will have
to file a petition with the court to terminate the father’s parental
rights. She will also need to have a hearing before a judge. This applies
to fathers who want to put up their baby for adoption as well.
If a father is raising his baby and the mother’s whereabouts are
unknown; for example, because she is a drug addict or abandoned her baby,
or if the mother refuses to consent to the adoption – the father
will have to go through the same steps mentioned above. He’ll have
to petition the court to have both his and the mother’s parental
rights terminated so he can allow his baby to be adopted.
Forms for Terminating Parental Rights
The California Courts do not have a specific form to terminate parental
rights. Our advice is to have a family law attorney help you draft a pleading.
To learn more about the law, you can check out
Family Code Section 7820, which addresses the termination of parental rights in California.
If you choose to ask the court to terminate parental rights, your request
should be based on one of the following factors below. Your pleading should
clearly explain why one or more of these reasons apply:
- Abandonment under Sec. 7822 of the Family Code.
- Cruelty or neglect under Sec. 7823 of the Family Code.
- The parent is disabled due to moral depravity or substance abuse under
Sec. 7824 of the Family Code.
- The parent was convicted of a felony under Sec. 7825 of the Family Code.
- The parent is mentally ill or developmentally disabled under Sec. 7826
of the Family Code.
- The parent is mentally disabled under Family Code Sec. 7827.
When the Court Grants a Termination of Parental Rights
As we mentioned above, the courts take parental rights very seriously and
they are not so quick to terminate someone’s parental rights just
because one parent does not want the other parent in the child’s
life. As a general rule, the court
only terminates parental rights when there is someone else who desires to step
in and take on the role as an adoptive stepparent or an adoptive parent.
“What if the other parent is a drug addict or a convicted felon?
Can the court terminate their parental rights because they are morally
corrupt?” If terminating the person’s parental rights would
leave the child with only one parent who is responsible to care for and
financially support the child then no, the court would not terminate the
Additionally, if someone’s parental rights are terminated, it does
not eliminate the child support that they owed. If there are child support
arrearages, they are owed up to the date the parental rights were terminated.
“What if the other parent has barely been in their child’s
life?” Often, custodial parents worry that the absent parent will
suddenly show up one day and try to get custody or visitation of their
child. An absent parent is not grounds for the termination of parental
rights, with the exception of
domestic partner and stepparent adoptions. More weight is placed on the termination request
when someone else, such as a stepparent or domestic partner are trying
to legally adopt the child.
If you need legal assistance with a parental rights case or another child
contact our Los Angles family law firm today.