Relatives or non-relatives who have a legitimate interest in the well being of a child that is not their own may petition for adoption to give the child a better, safer, and healthier home life. The rights of the biological parents must first be terminated in order for the legal adoption to occur, and while some parents may relinquish their parental rights willingly, other cases may warrant a court hearing to terminate the rights of the parents by legal action. Crider Family Law attorney Brad Crider will help you present evidence against an unfit parent in a court of law or defend yourself against those trying to terminate your parental rights.
Most often, relatives such as stepparents or grandparents will petition the courts for an adoption due to their belief that the legal decision-making parent is unfit to raise the child responsibly. Despite this relative's belief in what is best for the child, evidence of parental inadequacy must first be established before the child's best interest is considered. The Arizona Revised Statute lists eleven scenarios that would qualify a parent as unfit and justify the termination of their legal rights:
- Abuse - The parent abused the child, knowingly or negligibly, or put the child in a situation where abuse could occur.
- Health History - the parent is unable to provide for the child due to mental illness or dangerous abuse of drugs or alcohol. There must also be reason to believe that this unhealthy pattern will continue.
- Criminal activity - if the parent has been convicted of a felony or received a prison sentence that will deprive the child of a stable home life for a period of years.
- Failure to identify paternity within the required time frame
- Failure of the father to file a paternity claim
- Consent - The parents have relinquished their rights to the child to an adoption agency or given consent to an adoption
- Failure to remedy circumstance - If a welfare agency is providing for the child, and after reunification efforts, the child has been removed from the home by court order for a period of nine to fifteen months due to a parent's unwillingness or inability to exercise proper care of the child (both presently and in the future), the parent's legal rights may be terminated.
- Unidentifiable Parent - The identity of the parent remains unknown after 3 months of diligent efforts to identify and locate the parent
- The parent has had the parental rights to another child terminated within the last 2 years for the same cause and is currently unable to administer parental responsibilities
- Repeated Removal - If the child was living outside the home, according to court order, was returned to the legal custody of the parent, and within 18 months, was again removed from the parent's custody
Once the birthparent has been deemed unfit to provide for their child, the courts must determine if the adoption by the prospective parent will also be in the best interest of the child. This may require an evaluation of the petitioner's home to ensure the prospective parent can sufficiently provide for the potential adoptive child. A social worker will investigate the prospective parent's financial and family history, and criminal and medical records.
Other problems may arise if both birthparents do not give consent to the adoption. If one or both legal guardians objects to the termination of their parental rights, a hearing will be necessary to determine final termination of their rights based on the evidence the petitioner provides. If a biological parent fails to show up to the hearing, the courts will consider it a "default" and your Crider family law attorney will take immediate action to sever their parental rights.
If you are attempting to adopt a child that is not yours, or if the state has filed a petition for Termination of Parental Rights against you, call Brad Crider at Crider Law today to quickly solve adoption challenges and protect the special child in your life.