Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights
The family court in California views parental fitness as an integral part of a child custody decision. Claims of an unfit parent often come from the other parent. Therefore, it is no surprise that parental fitness and claims of an unfit parent are used in child custody battles. One of the most important factors in determining what is in the best interests of the child includes looking at the status of the parents. It is how judges determine which parent will receive primary custody. If you have been accused of being an unfit parent, it is important to speak with a family law attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights and well-being of your child.
The definition of an unfit parent is governed by state laws, which vary by state. A parent may be found unfit if they have been abusive, neglected, or failed to provide proper care for the child. Other factors that may lead to finding a parent unfit include:
- Addiction to drugs or alcohol
- Mental illness
Termination Hearing to Determine Parental Fitness
Some state laws provide for a fitness or termination hearing to be held after a finding of neglect, dependency or abuse. In determining the child’s best interest, the family law court will review the willingness of the parent or parents to receive or care for the child. Should a parent be found to be unfit, the law may specify a period after such a finding in which the parent may act to resolve the problem. When a parent has been found unfit and fails to make reasonable efforts and progress within the specified time frame, it will lead to a determination of unfitness. A California family attorney should be consulted for specific requirements.
The family court has the authority to award sole custody to the other parent when one parent is deemed unfit. If both parents are found to be unfit, the child may be placed in the care of a grandparent, other responsible family member or foster care. Additionally, if evidence of parental unfitness toward one child is found, the parental rights to other children may be terminated, even though the parent never abused or neglected the other children. The best interest of the children is the determining factor in the California family law court.
Reinstatement of Parental Rights
The State of California has provisions for reinstating the rights of a parent whose rights have been terminated. In fact, your odds of regaining terminated parental rights in California depend a great deal on why you lost them.
California won’t terminate your rights because the other parent wants you out of your child’s life, or if you have agreed to give them up in exchange for not paying child support. You generally can’t surrender your rights voluntarily, except in cases of an adoption by the other parent’s new spouse. If you have abused or neglected your child, California will terminate your parental rights if the court feels harm may come to him if he remains with you.
If your parental rights have been terminated, it is advisable to speak with a family law attorney that can explain the process and what you can reasonably expect during and after a reinstatement hearing for parental rights.