Children are often involved in one of the most complicated aspects of divorce and legal separation: custody and visitation rights. Even after visitation rights are determined in court, children are at risk. If the parent in possession of visitation rights is neglectful or abusive, they may lose visitation rights.
Grounds for termination of parental rights can be related to criminal, behavioral, or financial actions by the parent or parents. These qualifications are predicated upon whether the child can return to a safe home environment. Terminating parental rights is done to protect the children in the household.
Grounds for termination include:
- Severe or chronic abuse or neglect
- Sexual abuse
- Abuse of other children in the household
- Long-term mental illness or deficiency of the parent
- Prolonged drug or alcohol use
- Failure to support the child
You may file a petition to terminate parental rights based on the grounds listed above. For more information on parental rights in the state of California, click here.
When Parental Rights Are Not Terminated
There are several reasons why the court may reject a petition for termination of parental rights. When determining parental rights and visitation, the court considers if a child’s sibling relationships would be negatively affected and if adoption is a desirable option. If the child is living with a relative who is unwilling or unable to take care of him or her, the court will not revoke parental rights. If the child is over the age of 12 and objects to the termination, the petition will not be approved.
In cases involving American Indian children, the court will consider the effect termination of parental rights would have on the Tribal community or the child’s membership in the Tribe. Specific procedures and customs for adoption that are unique to Tribal communities can influence the court’s verdict. For more information about kinship, permanency, and out-of-home care for American Indian and Alaska Native communities, click here.
How Do I Petition for Termination of Parental Rights?
There are two ways to lose parental/visitation: voluntarily or involuntarily. If a parent or parents choose to terminate their parental rights, it is voluntary. By doing so, they forfeit their right to make decisions and have contact with the child. They will not be able to visit or talk to their child until the child turns 18. In these circumstances, California has statutes that allow a parent to get their parental rights reinstated. For a request of this nature to be granted, the court must determine that the parent can adequately provide for the child. California law dictates that the older child can oppose termination. In these cases, the court is looking into the situation to see if reunification is in the child’s best interest.
Involuntary termination occurs when a parent meets the ground for termination. If they have abused, neglected, or failed to support the child, they will likely have their rights revoked. In involuntary cases, the court removes parental rights. Court decisions that result in loss of parental rights overrule other documented parental benefits and contributions like inheritance, custody, visitation, and child support.
How Is a Petition Filed?
If you need to file for termination of parental rights, you will need to complete an Investigation Questionnaire Form (FL/E-Lp-647). Documentation for medical records, employment, marital history, and criminal records is necessary to complete this form. These documents help to provide a better overall picture of your situation for those involved in your case. There is no official termination form, but in addition to the questionnaire, you will need to draft a plea for termination detailing the grounds for your request. You may choose to write your petition yourself, but seeking legal counsel can help better ensure that you make the most robust case possible before the court.
Once you complete the request process and receive confirmation, you can request a hearing, or in some cases, an ex parte application can be submitted. Ex parte applications allow the applicant to have a termination request facilitated without a formal hearing. Situations where ex parte applications are possible are minimal. You should consult an attorney to determine if you qualify.
After review by the court, you will receive a confirmation of your approved request. A hearing is usually scheduled 45 days out from your petition approval. You will be sent documentation regarding the scheduling of your hearing.
How to Find Out More About Parental Rights
Abuse and neglect leave scars, especially on children. Emergency resources are available for those with reasonable suspicion of abuse, meaning if you told another person the same information, they would come to the same conclusion. If you have reasonable suspicion that a child is being abused or neglected, contact the child protective services hotline in your county. You can find out more information about the CPS hotline here.
Custody, visitation, and parental rights are highly emotional topics that can have lifelong consequences. We know that every case is unique, which is why we offer a variety of services to help provide the best future for you and your children. We have over 60 years of experience helping families in Oceanside and Del Mar with visitation rights, custody evaluation proceedings, and mediation.
Contact Palmer Rodak & Associates at (760) 573-2223 for a complementary consultation today