Written by Canterbury Law Group

Termination of Parental Rights

Termination of Parental Rights

Terminating parental rights is a serious subject and should be very carefully considered before any actions are taken. Read on to learn more about the termination of parental rights.

What Does Termination of Parental Rights Mean?

When the rights of a parent are terminated it means the rights that person had as a parent of their child or children have been taken away so that person no longer remains the legal parent of the child. This has a number of implications:

  • There is no longer a parent-child relationship.
  • The parent usually has forgone the right to speak with or visit with the child or children.
  • The parent no longer has an obligation to pay child support.
  • The parent no longer gets to raise the child or children.
  • The parent is removed from the birth certificate of the child or children.
  • The child or children can be adopted by another without the permission of the parent.

There is a reason the nickname for the termination of a parents right is referred to as the civil death penalty – such matters are taken with a great deal of levity by judges, who do not usually terminate the rights of a parent unless there is a very good reason to do so. The following information is in reference to private terminations of parent’s rights among family members only.

Who Is Allowed to Terminate A Parent’s Rights?

A petition to terminate the rights of a parent can be filed by a guardian, parent or family member. When the petitioner of the child is in receipt of public assistance such as SNAP or TANF it is not very likely the parent’s rights will be terminated by a judge. In those circumstances, the child support office has to mandatorily notified regarding a termination if the petitioner is in receipt of public assistance. The Department of Family Services, known as the DFS may request a judge to terminate the rights of a parent in instances when CPS has been involved with a family. Normally, this occurs when the DFS has been involved with the family for in excess of a year and has made numerous attempts to address the outstanding family problems. If the issues are very serious and/or the parent has failed to make progress, the District Attorney may be asked by the DFS to file a parental rights termination case.

Can I Opt to Give Up My Parental Rights?

In most cases the answer will be no. Judges, more often than not, have the view a child or children need two parents so that sufficient financial and emotional support is provided. Parental rights cannot be given up in order to avoid addressing poor behavior in a child or children and neither can you unilaterally relinquish your parental rights. In normal circumstances, you will usually have to attend a court hearing in person to explain your situation and unique goals to the judge.  Every case is different and no outcome can be guaranteed by any lawyer.

Reasons for Termination of Parental Rights

  • Only a very minimal effort has been made to support the child or children by the parent – this includes taking care of the child or children and communicating with the child or children.
  • The child or children would face a serious risk of mental, emotional or physical injury being in the company of the parent.
  • The parent is unfit in that they refuse or are incapable of providing the child or children the proper guidance, support or care.
  • When the child or children were conceived following a sexual assault. When the parent has been convicted for such a crime, their parenting rights can be legally terminated.
  • The parent has been neglectful meaning the child or children have not been correctly taken care of, this includes shelter, medical care, providing food, education and any other special need the child or children may require.
  • When CPS has taken a child or children from the home, the parent only has a limited window of time to address and correct the reasons for the removal of the child or children. If in a reasonable time, the parent does not correct those issues, the state can and often will petition to terminate parental rights.
  • When the parent displays behaviors related to abandonment indicating they desire to give up all their rights regarding the child or children. In these cases, it usually means a parent has not contacted the child or children for a time in excess of 6 months without good reason for doing so.

Regardless of any parent’s preference, the assigned judge is always going to decide on what they consider is going to be in the best interests of the child or children. Clear and convincing evidence must be produced by the party requesting the termination; this is one of the highest burdens of proof imposed by the law.

Where Do I File for Termination Of Parental Rights?

Termination of parental rights and be filed at the Juvenile or Family Superior Court in the county where the child or children resides. You may also file in the county where one of the parents makes their home. However, when the child or children are Native American, these matters are usually handled by the independent tribal court.

I Haven’t Heard From The Other Parent In Years. Is There A Fast Way To Terminate Their Rights?

Sadly, in these circumstances, it may take longer if the other parent cannot be located. The other party will have to be personally served with papers, giving them the opportunity to attend court and defend their custodial rights, should they choose to do so. When you are not aware of the location of the other parent, the judge has an expectation you will do everything in your power to locate them by speaking with family, friends, their employer, email and online searches, etc. A judge may allow you to post a notice in a newspaper should the previously named searches do not reveal the parent’s location.

How Do I Terminate Parental Rights In Arizona?

In Arizona, at least one of the following statutory grounds must be asserted and proven with clear and convincing evidence:

  • Within 30 days after being served with a Notice of Adoption, the presumed father failed to file a claim of paternity.
  • The parents have agreed to an adoption of their child or children or have relinquished the child or children to a licensed adoption agency.
  • Serious Neglect or abuse of the child or children.
  • Abandonment
  • A chronic substance abuse history from the parent which cannot be remedied or treated
  • When one parent faces felony incarceration for a considerable period of time, or life sentence.

The statutes containing the comprehensive list a court may rely on when terminating parental rights can be discovered here.

Do I Need A Lawyer for Termination Of Parental Rights In Arizona?

The termination of parental rights is a very serious matter and you should ideally engage a lawyer to assist in navigating difficult to understand laws and procedures that are mandatory in this process. In situations where DFS has filed a case seeking to terminate your custodial rights, an attorney will usually be appointed to represent your situation at no cost. However, you sometimes get what you pay for.  In circumstances where the other parent has decided to file a case against you, you should seriously think about getting a qualified and experienced attorney to help defend your rights.


Martin, Kasio. “Family Law Self-Help Center – Overview of Termination of Parental Rights.” Family Law Self-Help Center – Overview of Termination of Parental Rights, https://www.familylawselfhelpcenter.org/self-help/adoption-termination-of-parental-rights/overview-of-termination-of-parental-rights.
“FAQ about Termination of Parental Rights in Arizona -.” Internet Marketing for Attorneys – Big Mouth Marketing, 3 Jan. 2018, https://www.bigmouthmarketing.co/legal-resources/faq-termination-parental-rights-arizona/.

Need A Family Lawyer In Scottsdale?

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*This information is not intended to be used as legal advice. Please contact Canterbury Law Group today to learn more about your personal legal needs. 480-744-7711 or [email protected]

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