Filing a Private Petition to Terminate a Parent’s Rights

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Filing a Private Petition to Terminate a Parent's Rights

The court procedures for terminating a parent’s rights are very strict because it is an action to end the constitutionally protected parent-child relationship. It differs from a family court case because the parent cannot be “defaulted” in the same manner. The Petitioner will need to testify and prove the case by clear and convincing evidence.

What does it mean to terminate a parent’s rights? A termination action completely severs the legal rights, privileges, duties and obligations between the parent and child. Except child support and inheritance, those are severed when the child is adopted by someone else. Legally the biological parent will have the same relationship to the child as any other non-relative person.

Is there a difference between a severance or a termination action? No, these terms severance and termination are interchangeable in this area. Severing and terminating a parent’s rights mean the same thing, it ends the parent-child relationship permanently.

Who can file a Petition to Terminate a Parents Rights?

Any person with a legitimate interest in the welfare of the child. Most often a biological parent, a grandparent, relative or other caregiver for the child or an adoption agency or DCS.

The Steps In The Process:

1. File the Petition to Terminate the Parent-Child Relationship. In Maricopa County these are file in juvenile court not family court.The list of what must be included in the Petition can be found in A.R.S.§8-534.In addition a severance social study is required by A.R.S §8-536(A) unless the courts waives it. If the Petition does not comply with these statutes the court may dismiss it without setting a hearing.

2. The court will send you an Order Setting the Initial Hearing.

3. You must serve the Petition, Notice of Initial Hearing and Order on all person’s entitled to notice in A.R.S. §8-535(A). It is very important that the Notice contains the language required in this statute or else it will have to be reserved.

What is a severance action? It is a two part case, 1. there must be grounds or reasons to end the relationship AND that it is in the child’s best interests.

What are grounds to terminate a parent’s rights? The most common in private case are abandonment, incarceration, and substance abuse. For a complete list see, A.R.S. §8-533 but some of these do not apply in private cases such as, those related to out of home placement because that refers to DCS cases.

What does it mean, the child’s best interests? The court must find that the child will benefit from the severance such as, by being adopted or that the parent-child realtionship is harmful.

Documents needed:

  • Child’s birth certificate
  • Any existing child support, custody orders or guardianship documents
  • The social study
  • Copies of evidence you wish to submit to prove you case

How Can We Help?

(Not Case Sensitive)


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