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Removing Parental Rights

by Steve Fritsch on October 7, 2015

There are several scenarios where a person may have their parental rights surrendered, or where the court may revoke these rights. Many think of removing these rights in conjunction with a child who is being severely abused or neglected. While these types of scenarios exist, there is more to terminating parental rights than this, especially when it comes to removing a parent’s rights. Here are some reasons why someone may seek to remove parental rights.

Grounds for Termination

  • Severe or chronic abuse or neglect of a child
  • Abuse of another child in the household
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Child abandonment
  • Long term mental deficiency or illness
  • Long term incapacity due to alcohol or drug use
  • Failure to maintain contact with or support child
  • Previous instance of parental rights revocation

State Required Revocation

In some circumstances, the state of California is required to file a petition to terminate a parent’s rights. These reasons align with The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA)

  • Child has been in foster care for 15 out of the last 22 months
  • Child was abandoned as an infant
  • Parent committed a violent crime against a child resulting in severe injury or death

To Terminate, or Not

There are far more cases of child abuse and neglect than there are petitions to terminate a parent’s rights. In most cases, efforts are made to rehabilitate the parent and to try and find a way for them to be a positive influence in the child’s life. Sometimes, it simply doesn’t seem as if there is a better option available for the child. Most efforts go toward limiting abuse, and attempting to restore the relationship.

In most cases, petition to terminate parental rights starts with the other parent (usually the mother) and the request is to remove the other’s parental rights. In some cases, the mother believes that she and her child are in grave danger from the father, enough so that she is willing to give up any claim to child support in order to keep herself and her child away from that person. In other cases, she may be getting married to or committing to another person who has helped care for the child, and that person wants to adopt the child and become their other parent.

Steps to Petition for the Removing Parental Rights

Create a Petition and a summons to initiate the removal of rights and file necessary forms. In this case the applicable forms include:

  1. Notice of Alleged Paternity
  2. Petition Freeing the Child from Parental Custody and Control 
  3. Petition Terminating the Parental Rights

Also, a Statement of Legal Grounds for the Petition from the court indicating the grounds the petition is being considered on. Other necessary attachments may include a copy of a statement the alleged parent signed denying paternity or a court order that declares the alleged parent as being mentally incompetent.

The alleged parent (respondent) is served these papers by an unrelated adult who is not connected with the case. They have 30 days from this point to issue a response. They may contest the termination of their rights or any adoption that is being proposed, or they may voluntarily surrender their parental rights by signing a relinquishment form. They will also file a proof of service form with the court, which indicates their intention to see that the case is investigated and reviewed by a judge.

Presenting Evidence and the Hearing

If there is resistance to removing a parent’s rights, both sides will need to collect evidence that supports their position, and a judge will listen during a hearing. If the child in question is ten years old or older, the judge will also talk to the child about the case as well. Within the hearing, the judge will decide issues of parentage, rights, and custody and will issue a ruling that he or she believes is in the best interest of the child. In many ways, the hearing can wind up being more like a regular custody dispute as much as anything else.

The Importance of Responding

While one of the options available to an alleged parent is to do nothing when they are served papers to terminate parental rights, this might not be the best thing to do. One of the “grounds” for the termination of parental rights is having those rights involuntarily terminated with a different child. Even if the parent is willing to give up those rights, it is better to relinquish them voluntarily than to let the time limit expire.

If you are seeking to have a parent’s rights terminated or if you are needing help responding to a petition that seeks to take your parental rights away, the Law Office of Steven L. Fritsch may be able to help. Contact us to set up a free consultation.

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