My ex doesn't see my kids. Can I terminate their parental rights?

My ex doesn’t see my kids. Can I terminate their parental rights?

After divorce, there can be circumstances when a parent has the right to see their kids but fails to do so. If your ex is not involved in your kids’ lives, you may think:  My ex doesn’t see my kids. Can I terminate their parental rights?

California Custody Orders

There are two types of California custody: Legal and physical.

Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make decisions regarding their child’s education, medical care, mental health, extracurricular activities, summer camp, and other important matters.

Physical custody refers to a parent’s right to have their children with them. Physical custody orders usually have a schedule that sets out where their child will live and how parents will exchange custody.

During a divorce, parents will have to make numerous decisions about custody and visitation. In many cases, parents will have joint custody, meaning that they will share relatively equal decision-making authority and time with their kids. However, there can be circumstances when one parent is the primary decision-maker who cares for their children most of the time. Under these circumstances, the other parent may have limited rights to see their children.

Termination of Parental Rights for Abandonment

Sadly, some parents choose not to be involved in their children’s lives after a divorce. When a parent is absent for a significant amount of time, the other parent may want to legally sever their child’s custodial relationship with the missing parent. This often comes up when a step-parent wants to adopt their spouse’s children.

Under California law, it can be a ground for termination of parental rights when a child has been left: “In the care and custody of one parent for one year without any provision for the child’s support, or without communication from the parent, with the intent on the part of the parent to abandon the child.”

Establishing Abandonment

Some parental abandonment cases are relatively straightforward. For instance, when a parent disappears, doesn’t contact their child, or pay support, the petitioning parent may be able to prove the necessary elements. However, not every case will be straightforward, and there can be circumstances when making a case for abandonment can be more complicated. For example, suppose a parent is seeking termination for abandonment, but the other parent alleges that the petitioning parent has interfered with their visitation or contact. In that case, it may be more difficult to prove that there has not been communication or attempted visitation for the requisite period. Child support can also be a complicating factor. What if a parent doesn’t see or contact their child but consistently pays child support? In that case, the parent seeking termination may have grounds to modify their custodial terms but may not be able to establish termination for abandonment.

Other Termination Grounds

California law provides other grounds for termination. For instance, a parent’s violent or endangering conduct or long-term imprisonment may be a basis for termination. However, outside of these and other extreme conditions, the court may not be inclined to terminate a parental relationship where there is contact or attempted contact and support.

Termination cases depend heavily on the facts and the parties’ unique circumstances. Therefore, if you are considering seeking termination of parental rights for abandonment, 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 kids.

Contact an Experienced California Divorce Attorney

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced California divorce attorneys who can help you during all phases of your divorce or custody matter. Our firm assists 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. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website.

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