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:
- Foster parents;
- 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.
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.