A successful petition to terminate parental rights due to abandonment per Section 7820 of the California Family Code can result in the termination of the other parent’s parental and custodial rights. This means that the other parent could no longer bring any custody, support or visitation requests to the court at a future date and you will be the sole custodial parent for the child.
How to Terminate Parental Rights
In order to get an order for child abandonment there must be serious and ongoing problems regarding neglect by the other parent. It cannot be ordered simply because you are angry with the other parent or are facing difficulty in child visitation arrangements. Some instances of when child abandonment can be ordered in family court include:
- The other parent of your child has failed to be involved in your child’s life either through lack of visitation or financial support.
- The other parent of the child you have been caring for has not exercised their parental rights for more than six (6) months.
If either of these situations are applicable to you, consult with a family law attorney to help you obtain the termination of parental rights of your child’s other parent. California Family Code Section 7820 provides that the family law court can terminate the parental and custodial rights of a parent who is found to have abandoned their child.
Who Can Petition the Court for a Child Abandonment Case?
According to California Family Code section 7820, you may bring a proceeding for termination of parental rights for the purpose of having a child, who is under the age of 18 years, declared free from the custody and control of the child’s legal parent. In some cases, another person besides the parent can petition the court. For example, those who can bring child abandonment cases, in addition to a legal parent are:
- A grandparent of the child.
- A step-parent of the child.
- An adult sibling of the child.
- Any adult who has taken over the care and custody of a child, due to the legal parents’ absence.
In extreme cases, if the court finds that both parents have abandoned the child you have been caring for, both parents will have their parental rights terminated. This may later result in an adoption, guardianship, or participation in the child dependency process for the child. Under California Family Code section 7822(a)(2) and (a)(3), you must show that one or both parents had the intent to abandon the child. You must show that there was intent to abandon the child by the legal parent, or parents, by using the surrounding facts of your case. This process is complicated, and it is best to seek legal advice before attempting to seek child abandonment of both parents.
It is important to note that given the serious nature of child abandonment cases, the family law courts are hesitant to terminate parental rights. The termination of parental rights would prevent the other parent from exercising custodial rights or visitation with your child in the future. You will need to prepare a case that demonstrates to the court that a finding of child abandonment is proper under the circumstances and that the termination of parental rights is in the best interest of your child. An experienced California family law attorney can help you understand the process and potential outcomes for your specific family circumstances.