Terminating parental rights, whether involuntary or voluntary, is a painful and complex situation. Here’s what you need to know about termination of parental rights in Arizona.
Disclaimer: Please note that this article is not intended to be legal advice. You should always talk to an attorney who is skilled at family law about your unique situation.
What does termination of parental rights in Arizona mean?
Termination of parental rights in Arizona is not necessarily the same thing as losing custody of a child. Custody is an older word for what is legally known as parenting time and legal decision-making. A parent can “lose custody” and still retain many of their parental rights.
Termination of parental rights, sometimes called severance of parental rights, means to permanently end the legal rights, privileges, duties, and obligations between a parent and their child.
Any person with “legitimate interest in the welfare of the child” may petition to terminate parental rights (Title 8-533). Doing so is rare, though, and best undertaken with the help of an attorney.
What are the grounds for termination of parental rights in Arizona?
A person may seek to terminate the rights of a parent for any of the following reasons:
– Substance abuse by the parent
– Mental health issues
– Domestic abuse or neglect
– Incarceration of the parent
– Others as defined by Arizona statute Title 8-533
Voluntary vs. involuntary termination of parental rights
A parent may choose to voluntarily terminate their parental rights in Arizona. A single parent with sole legal decision-making rights may marry someone who wishes to adopt their child. The non-custodial parent may voluntarily terminate their parental rights. Parents who give their child up for adoption also voluntarily terminate their rights.
Involuntary termination of parental rights in Arizona is a court-ordered action based on one of the reasons in Title 8-533(B).
How to terminate parental rights in Arizona
You can find the required forms and instructions online for Maricopa County. However, severance of parental rights is a complex and emotional process that you shouldn’t try to navigate without a lawyer.
With evidence from both sides, the court determines what is in the best interest of the child. The burden of proof is on the petitioner (the person seeking the termination). A lawyer can guide the process, filing the appropriate paperwork and helping the petitioner gather evidence to support their claim.
To involuntarily terminate parental rights in Arizona, the petitioner takes the following steps.
1. File a Petition for Termination of Parent-Child Relationship
The petition must prove that the petitioner has an interest in the welfare of the child. It must also give the reason for seeking the termination. The petitioner must also note who will perform the social study required by Title 8-536 (or request to waive that study).
2. Obtain an order from the court to set an initial hearing
Once the court reviews the initial paperwork, they may not find a cause for termination and may dismiss the case. If this occurs, the petitioner can correct the information as needed and re-file. If the court does not dismiss the case, they will order an initial hearing.
3. Obtain a Notice of Initial Hearing from the Clerk of Court
This notice includes the date, time, place, and location of the initial hearing. The clerk will also provide any other important information needed in this notice.
4. Assemble the required paperwork
The petitioner must create copies of the petition and information regarding the initial hearing for all interested parties. This includes any tribal organizations, any guardian ad litem (person who is appointed to act on behalf of the child), and other custodians.
5. Serve the paperwork
The petitioner must serve the paperwork on the interested parties. This must happen at least ten days before the initial hearing for people in Arizona and at least 30 days for those outside the state.
6. Attend the initial hearing
The judge will hear the evidence for termination of parental rights.
If the judge grants a petitioner’s request for involuntary termination of parental rights, it goes into effect immediately.
How to voluntarily terminate parental rights in Arizona
Voluntary termination of parental rights in Arizona is referred to as relinquishment. The most common reason is for the purpose of adoption. A parent voluntarily terminating their rights creates a consent form. This form must include the following:
– The terminating parent’s name, date of birth, address, and relationship to the child
– The child’s name, date of birth, and last known address
– The name and address of the individual or agency the rights are being relinquished to
– A statement that acknowledges the consequences of voluntary termination (Title 8-117)
– Another statement that acknowledges understanding that relinquishing rights is irrevocable unless given under fraud or duress (Title 8-106)
– A final statement that acknowledges that the relinquishing parent has read and understands Title 8-114 and has not received any direct or indirect compensation
Once the relinquishing parent signs the form with a notary public, it can be filed with the juvenile court in the relinquishing parent’s county.
Other aspects of termination of parental rights in Arizona
Many of these cases are complex, and you should always consult a lawyer. Here are some other aspects of parental rights termination that may come up.
How to handle reinstatement of parental rights in Arizona
In some cases, it is possible to reinstate parental rights. For example, sometimes a child goes into foster care after termination of parental rights but cannot find a placement. In these cases, a parent may be able to petition for reinstatement if their circumstances are suitable.
How to fight termination of parental rights
Fighting termination of parental rights requires a thorough understanding of the law. If you are threatened with the loss of your parental rights, an attorney can help you understand the process and your rights.Contact Us