What is Termination of Parental Rights?

The facts bring clarity to the difficult and complex issue of the termination of parental rights. Parents have both rights and responsibilities when it comes to their children. In California, as well as other states, children have rights to financial support and care from both parents. In considering either voluntary or involuntary termination of parental rights, first understand that the courts (read: “judges”) put children’s rights before parents. Therefore, terminating parental rights does not enable a father or mother to escape child support payments. The state’s main goal is to have the child supported by both parents.

termination of parental rights

Voluntary Termination:

Because the courts’ aim is to deliver the privileges of both parents to the child, they will proceed with a voluntary termination only if there is “good cause” to do so. Most often, this comes when a step-parent shows intent to support the child both financially and emotionally. When a biological parent is willing to terminate rights and a step-parent stands ready to assume them, the voluntary termination goes smoothly.

A parent desiring to have the other parent completely out of a child’s life without a step-parent present, however, will be surprised that he or she still doesn’t have good cause for voluntary termination, despite the other biological parent’s green light. Even if the non-custodial parent is ready and willing to give up his or her rights, the courts may still want child support from him or her.  

Parents willing to terminate parental rights needs to know that in doing so, they completely extinguish all rights and responsibilities of parenthood. They cannot have a say in where the child lives, goes to school, what doctor or medical care is best and so on. The terminated parent has no custody or visitation rights with the child. The family law code oversees the rules and procedures for termination and post-termination access, if any. 

Involuntary Termination

Often, the state or the custodial parent seeks involuntary termination of the non-custodial parent. When Child Protective Services removes a child from a dangerous home for a foster care stay, they begin a process to evaluate the parent’s competence. A series of legal actions leads to the involuntary termination of parental rights.

The courts insist that “good cause” be shown in involuntary termination of parental rights cases. Good causes include:

  • Severe or chronic abuse or neglect

  • Sexual abuse

  • Abuse or neglect of other children

  • Abandonment

  • Failure to support or maintain contact with the child

  • Involuntary termination of the rights of the parent to another child

  • Long-Term mental illness or deficiency of parents

  • Long-term drug dependency

  • Commission of a felony

  • Lack of access due to serving a prison sentence leading to child’s entrance to foster care

The courts look at all the evidence regarding these issues and then rule in what they consider to be the child’s best interests. It’s critical to have legal representation in termination of parent’s rights cases to either prove or disprove these accusations.  

How to Terminate Your Parental Rights in California

As mentioned above, the only way to terminate your rights in California is to have another ready to adopt your child. Those no longer interested in participating in the child’s life cannot escape payments due for his or her maintenance, unless serving jail time or dangerous to the child. Those who commit crimes, abuse or the other causes above will have their rights terminated by the state if they do not meet the criteria set by the courts when the children were removed from the home.

Reinstating Parental Rights once They Have Been Terminated

The courts do not reinstate parental rights easily and getting this done has a lot to do with why you lost them in the first place. Those who voluntarily gave up parental rights often do so to make to make a child’s adoption by another possible.   

In 2005, however, California Assembly Bill 519 created a way for parents with terminated parental rights to regain custody of their children. The law is very clear-cut and subject to caveats. First, another adult must not have adopted the child after your rights were terminated. Secondly, your child must inform his social worker or foster parent that he or she wishes to live with you. Finally, the child has to make this preference within three years of the termination of your parental rights.  Then, meeting all of these and more criteria, the court can reinstate your rights. Again, getting your rights reinstated takes the expertise of an aggressive family law attorney.

Father’s Rights Law Center

The experienced attorneys at the Fathers’ Rights Law Center have brought hundreds of custodial and child support actions to court on behalf of fathers. We will prepare your case based on how local judges interpret the law. Testimonials about our work  make it clear how hard we work on each, specific cases. We’re happy to provide a complimentary consultation to clear up your most pressing questions and concerns. Call us at 1-800-4-LAW-HELP to speak with an attorney today!


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One Response to What is Termination of Parental Rights?

  1. Dan L says:

    Don’t Let This Happen To You!

    Today, the judge awarded me custody of my Wife’s 3 minor children. 17,14,&8. That means that I am now legally their father and their names will be changed on their birth certificates legally to reflect my own and everyone will have the same last name. This means that two biological father’s no longer have rights. I was a little uncomfortable with doing that at first, but now I know that it will best serve their interest for the remainder of their lives. Their biological fathers have not been involved in their lives emotionally or financially in years, nor have they seen them since the parental relationship ended. The kids all rose their right hands and asked the judge to finalize the adoption. And the one who was closest to her biological father asked her to do so with joyfully tearful testimony. So, I offer this cautionary tale. It could have happened to me with my biological child who will be 18 in a few weeks now when her Mom ran off to Alaska leaving no forwarding address or phone number. I love her very much and finally got back in contact when she called me a few years back with tales of abuse. The judge awarded custody to me but it was a very expensive and painful process. Just saying Dad! Make an effort, love your kids, see them as often as you can, support them emotionally and financially. Man up!

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