When a child’s living conditions threaten their well-being, someone close to the child can petition the court to terminate parental rights. According to Arizona laws, the petitioner can be ‘any person or agency with a legitimate interest in the welfare of the child,’ including a relative, a foster parent, a physician, or a private agency.
What is Termination of Parental Rights?
In Arizona, termination of parental rights or severance of parental rights occurs when the court permanently ends all legal rights, privileges, obligations, and duties between a parent and their child. However, termination of parental rights is not necessarily the same as loss of child custody.
Since the termination of parental rights is a rare and emotionally complicated process, it is best to undertake it with the help of a skilled family law attorney. Whether you are a parent or a petitioner, our Arizona family law attorneys at R.P.M Law will help you navigate the often complex legal process.
Grounds for Parental Rights Termination in Arizona
There are several reasons or grounds as defined in Arizona statute (A.R.S 8-533) under which a person or agency can petition the court to terminate parental rights in Arizona, including:
- Where the parent abandons the child
- Where the parent has a history of substance abuse that is likely to continue indefinitely
- Where the parent neglects or abuses the child
- Where the parent has a mental health illness that is likely to last for an indeterminate period
- Where the parent has been convicted of a felony that makes them unfit for parenting, or if the sentence is likely to deprive the child of a normal home for years
- Where parents relinquish their parental rights to another person or agency by consenting to an adoption
- Other reasons as outlined under A.R.S 8-533
While the above occurrences do not automatically terminate a parent’s rights over their child, they serve as grounds under which a petitioner can petition the court to terminate parental rights.
Voluntary and Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights
Parental rights termination is involuntary when it is court-ordered. Voluntary termination occurs when a parent voluntarily terminates their parental rights, including when they give up the child for adoption. Even though it is not court-ordered, voluntary termination of parental rights requires court approval.
How Long Before a Parent Loses Parental Rights
Each parental rights termination case is unique, and the time it takes for a parent(s) to lose parental rights often depends on the unique circumstances of a case. While the court rarely advocates terminating both parents’ rights, there are some instances where doing so is in the child’s best interest.
In such instances, Arizona law is specific on how long it should take before both parents lose their rights. For instance, there are situational timelines within which parents risk losing parental rights, especially when repeated attempts have been made to reunite them with the child. The court may consider terminating parental rights if:
- The child has been in an out-of-home placement for at least nine months, and the parent has willfully neglected to address the problems that led to the placement.
- The child is three years old or younger and has been in placement for at least six months, and the parent has purposefully failed or made it impossible for other agencies to address the issues that have led to the placement.
- The child has been in an out-of-home placement for 15 months or longer, and the parent has proven unable to remedy the issues that necessitate the placement.
The principle of the ‘child’s best interest’ guides the court when terminating parental rights. The court will consider terminating parental rights if it can reasonably believe that the parent is incapable of fulfilling their parental responsibilities in the foreseeable future. Whether you are a petitioner or a parent, termination of parental rights is emotional and often legally complicated. Therefore, it is advisable to seek the help of a skilled and experienced family law attorney to guide you through the process. If you are in Tucson, AZ, contact our attorneys at R.P.M Law for a free consultation and learn more about our services.