When parents separate or divorce, California child custody laws generally favor children having regular and meaningful contact with both parents. However, there can be circumstances when a parent may have reason to seek termination of the other’s parental relationship. Someone in this situation needs to know: Can I terminate my Ex’s parental rights in California?
What Does Termination of Parental Rights Involve?
Termination of parental rights permanently ends a parent’s legal relationship with their child. A court’s termination order applies to rights such as custody, visitation, inheritance, support obligations, and liability for a child’s actions.
A parent seeking to terminate another’s parental rights will be required to follow certain steps.
Generally, a parent seeking termination of parental rights will:
- File a pleading that meets certain legal requirements and sets out the reason or reasons they are seeking termination;
- Serve the other parent with the pleading; and
- Schedule a hearing for the court to consider their pleading and evidence supporting termination after the other parent has been served and has had time to file a response.
This can be a complicated process and it’s essential to work with experienced counsel when seeking parental termination.
Reasons for Termination of Parental Rights
In California, termination is generally only available under certain circumstances. Therefore, one of the most important aspects to consider is why you believe termination is necessary.
A termination proceeding may be brought under the following grounds:
Abandonment—California law specifically provides that termination may be available when a child has been abandoned by their parent. Abandonment will need to be established through various elements.
Abuse and Neglect—When a parent has been abusive, neglectful, or endangered their child’s well-being, there may be a basis for termination. Abusive conduct is referred to as cruelty under the law.
Convicted of a Felony—termination may be available when a parent has been convicted of a felony and the facts “are of such a nature so as to prove the unfitness of the parent or parents to have the future custody and control of the child.” The court can also consider the parent’s criminal history “to the extent that the criminal record demonstrates a pattern of behavior substantially related to the welfare of the child or the parent’s ability to exercise custody and control regarding the child.”
Disability Connected to Addiction or Moral Depravity—A court may terminate parental rights when a parent has an addiction-related disability that renders them unable to provide safe and adequate care for their child. Termination may also be available when a parent is considered to be “morally depraved.” If the parent’s disability or moral depravity interferes with their ability to care for their child, there may be grounds for termination.
Voluntary Relinquishment—There can be circumstances when a parent may voluntarily relinquish their parental rights.
Incapacity—When a parent is declared to lack the capacity to care for their child because of a developmental disability or mental illness, a court may determine that there are grounds for termination to protect the child and ensure their safety and well-being.
Termination cases depend heavily on the facts and the parties’ unique circumstances. Therefore, if you are considering seeking termination of parental rights, it’s important to get the advice of an experienced California child custody attorney. Your child custody lawyer can help you assess your situation and determine the best options for you and your children.
Before filing for parental termination, the petitioning parent should consult with an experienced California child custody attorney. You and your lawyer can evaluate your circumstances and determine the available grounds for termination of parental rights.
Contact a California Child Custody Attorney
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced child custody attorneys who can help. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We assist clients along California’s Northern to Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin, San Jose, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.