Adoption, Severance, & Reinstatement Of Parental Rights Attorneys in Peoria, Arizona
Adoption, Severance, and Reinstatement of Parental Rights in Arizona
There are many people who care about a child's welfare. When biological parents abandon, neglect, have drug and alcohol abuse issues or are incarcerated, family and friends can step in and be a supportive resource during this emotionally charged time. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, and foster parents all want to see children they love to succeed and be supported. When children are not supported, loved ones can petition a court for orders that would grant them legal decision-making authority over a minor child. This can be done on a temporary or permanent basis. In cases of severe neglect where there is no prospect, the biological parent will regain fitness, a person invested in a child's life can seek to sever that parent's rights over the minor child. In this situation, the person petition the court seeks severance – in essence, they are asking a Court to strip the biological parent from any continued involvement in a minor child's upbringing.
Arizona law generally regards the relationship between parents and biological children as sacrosanct. This bond is recognized and protected by law. However, Courts do recognize that cases exist where biological parents have abandoned or neglected their children to a degree that severing their legal rights and obligations is appropriate.
Adoption and severance can be an exciting and happy time for families. It can also be a contentious, ugly, and sad process. Generally, the party seeking the severance of parental rights simultaneously requests that they adopt the minor child.
Having competent representation during this time is critical. If severance or adoption are at issue in your case, please contact us to set a consult. Kate has successfully represented clients in adoption and severance cases over the last decade – the results are rewarding and she enjoys celebrating with families and guiding them through the process. Kate has also served as a court-appointed guardian ad litem at jury trial and litigated issues of severance. She is experienced, compassionate, and well-informed. Having a lawyer with this background will help you navigate the emotional and consequential process of severance and adoption cases.
Severance: An Overview and Comparison
Before discussing severance and adoption specifically, it is important to recognize the levels of legal authority that third party can request over a minor child.
Presumption in Arizona Law: Non-parents have NO rights over a minor child: Arizona law recognizes and protects the rights of biological parents to make decisions on behalf of children. The law presumes that each decision made by a biological parent is in the best interests of that child. However, this presumption can be overcome by showing abuse and neglect and showing a court that a biological parent is not acting in the best interest of a child.
Temporary Third Party Rights: when a biological parent is having parental fitness issues, a third party may petition a Court for an order giving them temporary placement and legal decision-making over a minor child. The third party requesting this level of court intervention must show that the biological parent is not making legal decisions consistent with the “child's best interests.” Third party rights are generally granted on a temporary basis. The expectation is that a biological parent will address any parental fitness issues and be reunified with their minor child or children. This issue is discussed in detail under the “Third Party / Grandparent's Rights” tab on our webpage.
Severance / Termination of Parental Rights: this is not the same thing as “losing custody” or “losing parenting time.” A parent can “lose custody” or “lose parenting time” and still maintain their parental rights. Terminating parenting rights means that the biological parent's rights, privileges, duties, and obligations over their minor child are permanently erased. The court will only make this very consequential decision if a petition shows that a parent has: abandoned; abused alcohol or drugs; experienced mental health issues; been involved in domestic violence; been or is actively incarcerated in jail or prison to a such a degree that the parent fails to provide reasonable support or has failed to maintain regular contact with the child.
Voluntary vs. Involuntary Severance (Termination) of Parental Rights
Sometimes, parties agree that the evidence creates a case where parental rights should be terminated. In situations where parties are in agreement, having competent representation ensures the paperwork is correctly filed, explained, and ordered. This is important to avoid future complications for a minor child's health care, welfare, grooming, religious, and school decisions. Voluntary termination of parental rights is usually accompanied with a petition for adoption. When parties mutually recognize parental fitness issues, they can work together with an adoptive resource in hopes that a child's needs can be satisfied.
More often, the process to terminate parental rights is contentious, emotional, and complex. When one party (generally, the biological mother or father of the child) opposes having their parental rights terminated, a Judge listens to evidence in a trial. The person requesting severance has the burden to show that the biological parents has failed to act in the child's best interests. After the judge listens to evidence from both sides, they must determine if it is in the best interests of a child to permanently take away a biological parent's rights.
If a judge decides that severing a parent's rights is in the child's best interests, the court will make an order regarding where the child will be living. Generally, the party seeking the severance also seeks to adopt that child to resolve the issue.
Reinstatement of Parental Rights
Following a severance of parental rights, biological parents can request reinstatement in some situations. This can be an option for parents that regain (or maintain) fitness or placement becomes an issue for the minor child. Considering the courts would have already spent significant time and expenses to litigate the issue of parental fitness in a severance action, reinstatement of parental rights is an uphill battle. If your parental rights have been severed and you are seeking reinstatement, there are many factors a court will consider. If a parent is now in a position to prove they are able to maintain an established, safe, and loving environment for their child, petitioning for reinstatement of parental rights may be attainable.
As you can see, these types of cases can get complicated very quickly. Having skilled representation is essential with the extreme consequences available at the court. Simonds Law Group, PLLC can help you. Please call to set a consult today.