It is possible to request termination of parental rights in California, but it’s often not granted. Termination of parental rights can only happen by court order and there are strict guidelines for doing so.
• Child support
• Liability for a child’s misconduct
Parental rights can also be terminated for an adoption or when the court finds either or both of the parents to be unfit. The court will only order termination of parental rights if there is someone else prepared to take on the care of the child.
How Termination of Parental Rights Happens in California
There are several ways termination of parental rights occur:
- In Juvenile Dependency Court where the child, usually due to mistreatment, becomes a ward of the court. If the court finds one or both of the parents has abused, neglected, or abandoned a child, or if one or both parents are physically or mentally incapacitated, termination of parental rights occurs to allow for adoption.
- In Family Court Adoption proceedings where both birth parents voluntarily agree to termination of parental rights.
- In Family Court Stepparent or Domestic Partner Adoption proceedings, where termination of parental rights is consented to by the non-custodial parent or where the court finds a parent has willfully abandoned a child.
Can Termination of Parental Rights be by Agreement?
California courts have ruled the parent-child relationship is the most fundamental right a child possesses. Parents are not entitled to stipulate away their duties and obligations to their child, and the courts have repeatedly found agreements to terminate parental rights are void and non-enforceable.
A parent cannot voluntarily relinquish their rights to avoid paying child support, even if the other parent agrees.
Abandonment and Willful Failure to Support
Even if you’re worried an absent parent will suddenly return and attempt to gain custody of your child, the courts do not consider this a reason to terminate parental rights. The exceptions are when there is a stepparent or domestic partner adoption, in which case the court may consider the absent parent’s abandonment and terminate parental rights without consent.
Consult an Attorney
Termination of parental rights is a serious issue, and a petition to terminate is not always granted by the court. You cannot have terminated because you’re upset with the other parent or don’t want them in your child’s life. This is a complex area of family law and you should consider speaking with an experienced California family law attorney about any questions you have regarding terminating parental rights.