Juvenile Court


An adoption is the legal process by which an individual becomes the legal "parent" of a child that is not biologically theirs. The most common adoptions in Arizona include step-parent adoptions, grandparent adoptions, and couples seeking to adopt children for personal reasons. Usually, besides an age requirement, there are no restrictions to adoption in the United States. It is, however, slightly more difficult for single persons to adopt a child than for married couples. When a person wishes to adopt their step-child through a “Step-Parent Adoption” it is a relatively easy process so long as the biological parent of the child consents to the adoption. When the biological parent consents to the adoption, and the step-parent has been legally married to the child’s birth parent for at least one year and has lived with the child for at least 6 months, A.R.S. § 8-112 only requires that a step-parent submit to a criminal records check and a central registry check before they can adopt the child. If the biological parent does not consent to the adoption, a termination of their parental rights must occur before the adoption can take place. When a grandparent wishes to adopt their grandchild, it is also a relatively easy process so long as the biological parents of the child consent to the adoption. Similar to a step-parent adoption, A.R.S. § 8-112 only requires the grandparents to submit to a criminal records check and a central registry check as long as the prospective adoptive parent is the child’s adult sibling by whole or half blood or is the child’s aunt, uncle, grandparent or great-grandparent. Additionally the child must have resided with the prospective adoptive relative for at least six months. If the biological parent does not consent to the adoption, a termination of their parental rights must occur before the adoption can take place. When a person wishes to adopt a foster child, the adoptive parent(s) must be certified by the court as acceptable to adopt the child(ren). Additionally, the parental rights of the biological parents must be terminated before the adoption can proceed. The State will also appoint a lawyer (i.e. a “Guardian Ad Litem“) on behalf of the child to make sure their rights are protected during the Termination of Parental Rights proceeding. Adopting parents may be required to complete a pre-placement “Home Study” in preparation for the adoption process. The Home Study will involve a social worker who will interview the prospective parents and conduct a background investigation. This will include a criminal history, financial history, familial history, and a medical examination. Lastly, the social worker will want to tour the prospective parents’ home in order to make sure they can adequately provide for the potential adoptive child. The Berkshire Law Office has experience in the entire adoption process, and, if necessary, experience in the termination of parental rights before the adoption can occur.

Termination of Parental Rights

Most people are not aware that Arizona allows for the termination of parental rights in some situations. This may be a preferred route to a standard custody case, as there is absolute finality. The termination of parental rights may be voluntary (when a parent chooses to place their child up for adoption) or involuntary. If the parental rights are being involuntarily terminated, the court must find:

  • The parent is unfit by clear and convincing evidence; and
  • Termination of parental rights is the in the child’s best interest.

To prove unfitness of the parent, a party must prove one of the following:

  • Severe or chronic abuse or neglect;
  • Abandonment of the child;
  • Long-term illness or deficiency of the parent;
  • Long-term alcohol or drug induced incapacity of the parent;
  • Abuse or neglect of other children in the household;
  • Felony conviction or incarceration;
  • Failure to establish paternity;
  • Murder or manslaughter of a sibling child;
  • Felony assault of child or sibling;
  • Sexual Abuse; or
  • Failure of Reasonable Efforts.

Under A.R.S. § 8-533, any person or agency with a legitimate interest in the welfare of a child can file an action providing they have sufficient grounds to base their claim. Some common people and agencies that petition for termination of parental rights are:

  • Relatives;
  • Foster parents;
  • Physicians/nurses;
  • Arizona Child Protective Services; or
  • Privately licensed child welfare agency.

Sometimes private parties bring these petitions, but most often they are brought by the Department of Economic Security in cases where the Department of Child Safety has been involved. The Berkshire Law Firm has experience in private termination cases and can discuss with you the grounds for a Petition to Terminate Parental Rights, the process, and whether your case qualifies.

Contact us to setup a consultation and determine whether you can terminate an uninvolved parent's rights.


When a non-parent person is appointed as a guardian over a minor, they have legal responsibilities that are similar to that of a parent. For example, a guardian can make personal decisions for a minor in their care. These decisions include such things as living arrangements, education, social activities, and authorization or withholding of medical or other professional care, treatment, or advice. A guardian has the duty to make decisions that are in the best interests of the minor. There are two types of guardianships that can occur in Arizona and each has a vastly different standard and requirement. Under A.R.S. § 8-871, a Permanent Guardianship is a relationship between an adult and a minor that gives the adult legal authority to make decisions for the child. The guardian takes on all of the responsibilities of the parent and makes decisions concerning the education, living arrangements, and medical care of the child. Permanent Guardianships arise out of a DCS case, and must be approved by the court at a permanency planning hearing. Under A.R.S. § 14-5202, a guardian for a minor can be appointed by the Will of a deceased parent or guardian. Additionally, under A.R.S. § 14-5207 a person can request to be a guardian to a minor by filing a petition with the court. If a party files a petition for the guardianship of a minor, the party must give notice to other interested parties. Generally, the interested parties include: the minor if they are over fourteen years of age, any person who has had principal care and custody of the minor for the sixty days prior to filing the petition, and any living parent of the minor. Before the court will appoint a guardian, the individual must provide background information to the court to prove they are capable and that appointment would be in the best interests of the minor. Such information may include, but is not limited to, any felony history, prior times the person acted as a guardian for someone, fingerprints and other personal information. If, after notice and the hearing, the court determines the welfare and best interests of the minor will be served by the requested appointment, the court will appoint the individual who filed the petition. If the minor is fourteen years of age or older, the court will consider the preference of the minor. The Berkshire Law has experience in both types of guardianships and can help you determine which is right for your situation. Contact us today to discuss guardianships.


A Dependency is when the State, usually through Arizona Department of Child Safety, removes your child, or regulates the contact with your child due to allegations of unfitness. Arizona defines a Dependent child as one who is in need of proper and effective parental care and control and has no parent or guardian, or the parent or guardian is not willing to exercise or is incapable of exercising care and control. Specifically A.R.S. § 8-201(14) states:

A Dependent child means a child who is adjudicated to be:

  • In need of proper and effective parental care and control and who has no parent or guardian, or one who has no parent or guardian willing to exercise or capable of exercising such care and control.
  • Destitute or who is not provided with the necessities of life, including adequate food, clothing, shelter or medical care.
  • A child whose home is unfit by reason of abuse, neglect, cruelty or depravity by a parent, a guardian or any other person having custody or care of the child.
  • Under eight years of age and who is found to have committed an act that would result in adjudication as a delinquent juvenile or incorrigible child if committed by an older juvenile or child.
  • Incompetent or not restorable to competency and who is alleged to have committed a serious offense as defined in section 13-706.

In Dependency actions, qualified representation is necessary to protect your rights. If a Dependency has been filed against you, contact us to defend your parental rights.