child abuse

Child Abuse and Termination of Parental Rights by Cassandra Hearn

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Parents work hard to protect their children from harm, both emotional and physical. In some cases, the source of the harm to the child may be the other parent. When that happens, the protective parent will take steps to make sure the child is shielded from the abuse. Many times, this means asking the court to severely limit or even cut off visitation and contact between the child and the offending parent. When the abuse is especially severe, or limiting the contact does not result in the offending parent improving his or her behavior, termination of parental rights may be the last step.

Termination of parental rights is a remedy that is sparingly used. Parental rights enjoy protection not only under laws of California, but also through the United States Constitution. Because parents enjoy constitutional protection, it is difficult to terminate parental rights. In order to do so, it must be proven not only that termination of parental rights is in the child’s best interest, but also that a parent has violated one of several grounds, one of which is neglect or cruelty, found in California Family Code 7823. Neglect or cruelty is more commonly thought of as child abuse, and can include a variety of acts, ranging from refusing to provide adequate food and shelter to physical abuse of the child. Of note is that a parent physically abusing one child can serve as grounds to terminate parental rights of another child.

Termination of parental rights in the context of post-divorce or post-custody order will often take the form of a step-parent adoption case. This happens when the non-offending parent has remarried and wants the new spouse to adopt the child. Before the adoption can happen, the offending parent’s parental rights must be terminated. In that type of case, a non-offending parent may use the offending parent’s past abuse of the child as grounds to terminate parental rights. Even when a step-parent is not present to step in and adopt, a non-offending parent may still want to seek termination of the other parent’s rights in order to make sure the offending parent cannot bring a suit in the future to regain visitation or custody.

Termination of parental rights is a difficult area of law and you need an experienced attorney to help you. Contact us today at 619-800-0384 to discuss your children and how we can help you protect them.