Termination Of Parental Rights

In Arizona, termination of parental rights is also referred to as “severance.” Severance proceedings are governed by A.R.S. § 8-531 to A.R.S. § 8-544. Proceedings for termination of parental rights are high stakes, because “[a]n order terminating the parent-child relationship shall divest the parent and the child of all legal rights, privileges, duties and obligations with respect to each other except the right of the child to inherit and support from the parent. This right of inheritance and support shall only be terminated by a final order of adoption.” A.R.S. § 8-539.

It is precisely because these consequences are so impactful that parents are afforded special procedural protections during termination of parental rights proceedings. For example, the burden of proof is higher than in a typical civil action – the petitioner in a severance proceeding must prove grounds for termination of parental rights by clear and convincing evidence (as opposed to the lower standard of preponderance of the evidence in regular civil actions). See A.R.S. §8-537(B).

Although a severance action can be brought privately, these actions are often brought by Child Protective Services (CPS). And they are often brought in the circumstances surrounding a dependency action. Under Arizona law, the grounds for a severance are listed in A.R.S. § 8-533. There are eleven grounds, some of which include:

  • Neglect
  • Abuse
  • Abandonment
  • Mental illness or substance abuse so that the parent is unfit
  • Lengthy prison sentence
  • Voluntary relinquishment by the parent

In addition to having to prove a ground for termination of parental rights listed in A.R.S. 8-533, it must also be shown that termination is in the best interest of the child. The “best interest” determination is done on a case-by-case basis considering the circumstances of each case.

As stated above, the stakes are extremely high for all parties involved in a severance action. These proceedings can also be very scary and emotionally charged for the participants. In such proceedings, an experienced Arizona termination of parental rights attorney can help. Call the attorneys at Giordano & Heckele, PLLC today for a consultation: (520) 433-9031. Or email us at [email protected]