Regardless of the personal reasons for expanding a family through adoption, one thing is sure: adoption is a beautiful choice.

On any given day, of the 424,000 children living in the U.S. foster care system, over 122,000 eligible children await, on average, four years for an adoption family, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

When pursuing adoption, the first legal step is to terminate the parental rights of a child’s birth parents. Whether involuntary or voluntary, terminating parental rights can be a complex situation. If parental rights are not terminated properly, it could result in an adoption being set aside. As a result, we highly encourage speaking with an attorney before starting the adoption process to ensure that all legal rights are protected.

What Does Termination of Parental Rights in Arizona Mean?

To proceed with an adoption in Arizona, you either need a consent for the adoption from the birth parent or a court order terminating his or her rights.

Termination of parental rights, sometimes called severance of parental rights, refers to, “permanently terminate the legal rights, privileges, duties and obligations between one or both parents and one or more of their children”(Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) Sections (§§) 8-531-544).

Any person or agency that has a legitimate interest in the welfare of a child, including a relative, a foster parent, a physician, the department, or a private licensed child welfare agency, may file a petition for the termination of the parent-child relationship. (Title 8-533).

What are the grounds for termination of parental rights in Arizona?

Evidence sufficient to justify the termination of the parent-child relationship shall include any one of the following, and in considering any of the following grounds, the court shall also consider the best interests of the child:

  • The child was abandoned by the parent;
  • The child was neglected or willfully abused by the parent (or knowingly placed in a situation in which the child could be neglected or willfully abused);
  • The child’s parent is unable to fulfill parental responsibilities due to mental illness or chronic abuse of dangerous drugs and/or alcohol;
  • The child’s parent has been convicted of a felony of such nature or of such duration of incarceration that it precludes fit parenting;
  • The child’s putative father failed to file the requisite Paternity Action and/or Notice of Claim of Paternity within the prescribed time limitations (more than one potential paternity further complicates the process);
  • A named potential father failed to file a claim of paternity within 30 days of being served with an Arizona Potential Father’s Notice
    • The child’s parents have relinquished their rights to an adoption agency or have consented to the adoption
    • The child is being cared for by a licensed child welfare agency that has diligently attempted to provide the appropriate family reunification services and certain other circumstances exist
  • The child’s parent is unknown after three months of diligent identification efforts; and
  • The child’s parent had parental rights for another child terminated for the same cause within the preceding two years and is currently unable to discharge his or her parental responsibilities because of that cause
  • The child was cared for in an out-of-home placement pursuant to a court order, the agency responsible for the care of the child made diligent efforts to provide appropriate reunification services, the child was returned to the parent, and the child is removed from the home again within 18 months

If There is A Legal Issue Related to the Termination of Parental Rights – Consult With An Attorney

Legal issues related to the termination of parental rights are often contested and can take months or years to resolve. Save significant time and expense by speaking with an attorney experienced in termination proceedings before filing.

Here are a few ways that an attorney can help, regardless of whether the goal is to preserve the existing parental rights or petition the court to terminate them:

  • Evaluate the case and determine the best course of action to pursue
  • If litigation is the best choice, an attorney will gather evidence in support of the proposed position and present it to the court in a way to which the judge will be responsive
  • Advise an individual regarding actions that could be taken while a case is pending that may help to obtain a favorable result
  • Help determine if it’s the right time to file and if the case is premature, an attorney can help strategize on how to build the case
  • Help preserve issues for appeal and file appeal if the case is not resolved favorably

These are just a handful of ways that an attorney, such as Kristy Blackwell and Cory Stuart, at Stuart and Blackwell can help with termination of parental rights cases.

Call Stuart & Blackwell Today to Discuss Your Case

Every adoption is as unique as the adoptive parents themselves, but the journey doesn’t have to be harrowing. At Stuart & Blackwell, we understand just how stressful the adoption process can be, and we’re here to help you find the path to adoption that’s right for you.

We specialize in Arizona adoption law, and we have the experience, knowledge, and compassion to help you welcome your child into your loving home. Contact us at (480) 420- 2900 today for your free consultation.