By Harry J. Lenaburg, Esq.
Questions often arise in our practice about a biological parent “giving up custody” as a way to avoid any future responsibility for the payment of child support for their minor child or children. Another question is “how do I terminate the biological father’s/mother’s parental rights so that my new spouse may adopt the child or children?”.
The bases and method of termination of parental rights is, not surprisingly, set out by statute in A.R.S. section 8-533. The test is always the best interests of the child. Grounds include, but are not limited to, abandonment, neglect or abuse of the child, mental health issues or chronic use of dangerous drugs or alcohol by the parent, that the parent is deprived of civil liberties and convicted of a felony as to prove that parent’s unfitness to parent.
A petition to terminate parental rights would be filed in the Juvenile Division of the county superior court. Parental rights may also be terminated by the execution of consent to adoption by the parent. A hearing will be scheduled, and a copy of the termination petition and notice of hearing must be served upon that parent. A social study by an approved agency must be prepared and submitted to the court in order to obtain a termination in most cases.
Importantly A.R.S. section 8-539 describes the effect of the termination order. The order “. . . shall divest the parent and child of all legal rights, privileges, duties and obligations . . . except . . support from the parent. This right of . . . support shall only terminate by a final order of adoption.” This means that “giving up custody’ or “giving up parental rights” will not terminate the obligation to pay child support.
If you wish to attempt to terminate the rights of a biological parent, of if you have been served with a petition to terminate your parental rights, you should consult with an experienced termination/adoption attorney in your area to discuss your rights, obligations and how to proceed.
The Law Firm of Jessica M. Cotter, P.L.L.C.
18301 North 79th Avenue, Suite F-168
Glendale, Arizona 85308