The termination of parental rights is a court order that permanently ends a legal parent-child relationship. Specifically, this type of order terminates any legal right to custody, visitation, inheritance, and responsibilities related to child support or child misconduct. In California, parental rights can be terminated voluntarily by the parent or involuntarily by the court. Typically, a court will order the termination of parental rights to allow an agency, independent, or stepparent adoption.

However, there are instances where the other parent may oppose the termination of their rights or cannot give consent due to their whereabouts. In that case, a petition will have to be filed with the courts to terminate their rights. In most cases, the petitioning process will include a hearing.

How to terminate parental rights

The first step to terminating parental rights in California is finding the grounds for petition. Under California law, a parent may terminate parental rights on the following grounds:

  • Child neglect or cruelty
  • Child abuse or abandonment
  • A parent’s alcohol or substance abuse
  • A parent’s “moral depravity”
  • A parent has been convicted of a felony
  • A parent has been declared mentally ill or developmentally disabled
  • A parent’s failure to pay child support
  • It is the preference of the child

Courts may also terminate parental rights due to other factors presently affecting the child’s best interest. Therefore, the list above is not an exhaustive one. In cases related to the termination of parental rights, a judge may consider any other factors relevant to the matter.

Steps to terminate parental rights

In California, there is a specific legal process that a parent must follow to terminate parental rights properly. The particular steps to ending parental rights are outlined below.

  • File the Petition
    • First, you must complete and file a Petition to Terminate Parental Rights. In this petition, you must state the grounds for termination along with a specific list of the parental rights you would like to terminate.
  • Serve the Parent
    • The petitioning parent must then serve the completed forms to the other parent. The individual serving the parent must be over the age of 18 according to California law. A court hearing will then be held to determine the validity of the petition.
  • The Court Hearing
    • If the other parent has filed a contested response, arguing against the termination of their parental rights, they will be expected to appear at the hearing and argue their case to the judge. If a parent agrees with having their parental rights terminated, they are not required to appear at the hearing.
    • After the hearing, the judge will either terminate the parental rights or dismiss the case.

Terminating Rights of Different Parents

In cases involving child custody matters, it is essential to remember that every family situation is unique. Therefore, terminating parental rights can look different based on your family circumstances. Below are two of the most common examples of terminating parental rights.

  • Noncustodial Parents
    • In California, custodial parents can terminate the parental rights of the noncustodial parent. A custodial parent is a parent who has legal custody of the child. For a custodial parent to remove the noncustodial parent’s rights, they must follow the same steps as outlined above.
  • Voluntary Termination
    • Voluntary termination of one’s parental rights is arguably the easiest path to termination. Voluntary termination of parental rights means that the parent either agrees to the petition or relinquishes their parental rights.

How Long Does it Take to Terminate Parental rights?

Because matters relating to child custody are highly distinctive, the legal process of terminating parental rights can take anywhere from weeks to months to complete. There is no specific time frame for removing parental rights. However, in cases of voluntary termination, the process can be completed much faster and with much less paperwork. In cases where the parent has contested the termination petition, the court process can be drawn out across several months.

Adopting after the Termination of Parental Rights

For an adoption to be legally finalized, the child’s birth parents’ rights must be terminated. Whether the parental rights are terminated voluntarily or involuntarily will influence the amount of time that must pass before adoptive parents can adopt a child.

Voluntary Termination:

In California, a birth mother can only give consent for her child to be adopted after being discharged from the hospital. If the birth mother works alongside an adoption agency, she has approximately ten business days to revoke her consent. If a birth mother signs a Waiver of the Right to Revoke, she is forfeiting her right to withdraw consent and only has one business day to change her mind. If the birth mother is involved in an independent adoption, she is allowed 30 days to revoke her consent to the adoption.

In cases where a biological father can be identified, he may have the option to sign either form. First, the “Right to Notice” waiver, or a Denial of Paternity before or after the baby is born. Upon signing either of these documents, the biological father is relinquishing his legal parental rights. If the biological father cannot be identified or found by the court, their parental rights will be involuntarily terminated 30 days after the child’s birth.

Involuntary Termination:

The involuntary termination of parental rights is most often associated with adoptions from foster care. In foster care, biological parents are given numerous opportunities to complete reunification plans with their children. However, if reunification attempts fail, the court will involuntarily terminate the biological parent’s rights once an appropriate home has been found for the child. For the court to terminate the birth parent’s parental rights, the adoptive parent must prove the safety of their home for the child.

In both voluntary and involuntary termination instances, the child is eligible to be adopted upon finalizing the biological parent’s legal rights. In conclusion, after the termination of parental rights, the duration of a child’s adoption process will depend on the birth parent’s willingness to adopt and terminate their rights.

Contact Pride Legal

If you or a loved one has more concerns regarding the termination of parental rights, we invite you to contact us at Pride Legal for legal counseling or any further inquiries. To protect your rights, hire someone who understands them.