Severance to Parental Rights

Severance to Parental Rights

Unfortunately, there are times when biological parents cannot care for their children. If you are a grandparent, you may want to adopt your grandchildren in addition to seeking custody. Alternatively, you might wish for your new spouse to adopt your children. Whatever the reason, severing parental rights can be a long, emotional process.

In some situations, the procedure can be relatively painless; that is when the parent consents to terminate his or her rights voluntarily. There are several reasons these individuals may give up legal claim to a child. For example, a termination of paternal rights means they are no longer obligated to take legal responsibility for the child through child support payments. In other cases, young unmarried couples may sever their rights to give their child the best chance at life through adoption. Whatever the case, voluntary severance of parental rights can be a fairly seamless transition.

When a person seeks to terminate parental rights without the other parents’ consent, however, the process can easily become complicated. The state of Arizona does not grant these requests for normal circumstances. To even begin proceedings, the child must be in danger physically, mentally or emotionally. Here is a sampling of the kinds of circumstances in which a party may file a petition to sever another parent’s rights:

  • Chronic abuse or neglect of the child
  • Abandonment
  • Long-term or chronic illness of the parent
  • Parent is incapacitated because of chronic drug or substance abuse
  • Neglect or abuse of other children residing in the household
  • Parent has recently been convicted of a felony or incarcerated
  • Parent fails to establish paternity
  • History of sexual abuse
  • Parent fails to make a reasonable effort

Under Arizona law, failure to pay child support or make visitation is not an adequate cause for termination of parental rights. Severance is reserved for the direst of cases, and the court will likely pursue other avenues before allowing you to petition for severance of parental rights.


Any person who has a legitimate interest in what is best for the child can petition to sever paternal rights, including:

  • Grandparents or other relatives
  • Physicians, nurses or allied health workers
  • Foster parents
  • Arizona Child Protective Services

In cases of suspected abuse or neglect, severance of paternal rights usually begins with a dependency hearing. Arizona Child Protective Services removes the child from the parent in question and may place him or her in protective custody. During this time, CPS conducts an investigation to determine whether or not it is safe for the child to return home. If the courts find that the claims are substantiated, CPS will make a plan for what is in the best interest of the child.

Even if one parent or other interested party succeeds in terminating parental rights of the other parent, they can be reinstated. For example, if one parent’s rights are revoked due to a substance abuse problem and that parent completes a rehabilitation program and can provide the child with a safe place to live and prosper, he or she may petition the courts to have his or her rights reinstated.


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