Termination of Parental Rights

At the Law Office of Olga A. Koplik, PC, we understand that the decision to terminate parental rights can be complicated. We’re here to help you understand what you need to know about terminating parental rights.


What Does It Mean To End Parental Rights?

Ending parental rights is a formal procedure in California, which allows persons to willingly or unwillingly give up their role as a legal parent. Several factors could necessitate such action, including making a child available for adoption. People might forfeit their rights as parents to allow the child a chance at a potentially healthier or more beneficial environment. This action may be taken if the parent believes they aren't capable of offering required care or if there's an interested adoptive parent or parents who can create a favorable environment for the child.

On the other hand, parental rights could be ended against the parent's will, frequently launched by the state or a third party due to specific circumstances. This typically arises when a parent is declared unfit or hasn't catered to the child's basic needs. Instances such as persistent neglect, serious or chronic maltreatment, sexual abuse, or prolonged substance abuse are common determinants of parental unfitness. If a parent is declared mentally ill, developmentally disabled, or implicated in illegal activities, the Department of Social Services may intervene on behalf of the child.

Failure to maintain a relationship or support a child can also result in the unwilling termination of parental rights. In California, this can occur if a parent has left their child alone or with others, with no provisions for supporting the child, or without keeping in touch with the child, having the intention of abandoning all parental duties for at least one year.

A parent could also apply to end their parental rights if the other parent is not sharing custody or visitation privileges. This action is usually the final option when all other legal remedies have failed, especially if the disadvantaged parent can prove that terminating their parental rights would benefit the child. However, courts generally aim to protect the parent-offspring relationship, and ending parental rights is viewed as a serious matter. It's typically only authorized if sufficient proof indicates it's in the child's best benefit. For these reasons, one should seek advice from a qualified family law lawyer if intending to apply for the termination of parental rights in California.


How Do You Terminate Parental Rights In California?

Terminating parental rights in California usually involves a series of procedures commencing with a request for termination of parental rights filed within a California Superior Court. This request may be voluntarily set in motion by a parent looking to surrender their rights. This request may be set in motion by the custodial parent or a guardian, opening the door for adoption and permanent placement. It may be set involuntarily, often submitted by the Child and Family Services Department (CFSD) or another entity acting in the best interest of the child.

However, before any termination actions get underway, the CFSD must make fair efforts to collaborate with the parents in efforts to help them regain their child's custody through reunification services. The Court is also required to conduct an independent investigation to determine the best interest of the child, specifically related to a parent’s termination of parental rights and subsequent adoption. Post submission of the termination request, the court will schedule a court date. Every concerned individual, including the parents, the child, the casework officer, and, if applicable, the Indigenous Tribe, must be informed about the hearing.

If the parent fails to attend, the verdict might be made based on the available data. The hearing evaluates numerous facets to determine if ending parental rights serves the child's optimal interests. This encompasses elements like the parent's capability to provide for the child, the bond shared by the parent and child, previous records of neglect or abuse, and the parent's willingness to change their conduct.

If it's decided in the court that ending parental rights is in the child's best interests, the court will issue a termination directive. Once this order is final, the parent's legal rights and duties towards the child cease. Thereafter, the child is usually placed under the CFSD's permanent custody or made eligible for adoption. If the child is adopted, all legal rights and duties will be transferred to the adoptive parents.

Given the complexity of this process, consulting legal counsel is highly recommended for those involved to understand their rights and effectively navigate the legal mechanisms. Each case is unique, calling for individual consideration to prioritize the child's optimum interests. If you are involved in a parental rights situation, contact the Law Office of Olga A. Koplik, PC, for help today.