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Termination of Parental Rights

Custody and visitation is a complex subject to litigate. It is not uncommon for one parent to have little to no contact with his or her child. Not only is this situation difficult on the single parent, but is it confusing and hurtful to the child. Often, absentee parents will attempt to reenter a child’s life after weeks, months, or years of abandonment. If your “co-parent” is attempting to re-establish a relationship with your child, you will need to work through the legal issues to find the solution that is in the best interests of your child.

You can ask the court to terminate the parental rights of the other parent on the grounds of abandonment. However, the court will not grant this request without much consideration. There are many facts that must be proven in order for this request to be granted. In order to establish abandonment, it is the moving party’s burden to prove that one parent has left the child in the care and custody of the other parent for the period of one year. In addition to leaving the child, the parent must leave without any provision for the child’s support. This means the parent provides no financial support to the child during his or her absence. The parent must also fail to communicate with the child for the requisite period of one year. Finally, the moving party must show that the alleged abandoner intended to abandon the child. If the parent has only made “token” efforts to provide for or communicate with the child the court may still declare the child abandoned. “Token” efforts can include behavior such as sending a sporadic holiday or birthday cards.

It is important to note that, in San Diego, parents are not permitted to voluntarily waive or give up their parental rights without a pending adoption. Although courts recognize that parents have a compelling interest to make decisions for their children, the courts determined that the children in these cases have a superior right. Absent evidence that a relationship with a parent is detrimental to the best interest of the child, the court is unwilling to terminate the child’s right to have an emotional and financial relationship with his or her parent. Instead of focusing on a parent’s right to make decisions on behalf of the child, the courts interestingly focused on the child’s rights.

At the outset of your case it is important to consider your child’s needs the legal ramifications of termination of a parent’s rights. If you petition the court to terminate a parent’s rights, there are many consequences you should be aware of.

What if you do not want to terminate the other parents rights but cannot agree on a new parenting plan? Many parents reach compromised agreements facilitated by Family Court Services. The court will assign you and the other parent a date to meet together with a mediator who provides counseling in family law cases when parents cannot agree on a child-sharing plan. If the negotiation and mediation processes both fail, the mediator will make a child custody and visitation recommendation to the court. This recommendation may or may not be adopted, in whole or in part, by the court as a binding order.

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.