Termination of parental rights is a court order that permanently ends the legal parent-child relationship. This type of order terminates rights such as inheritance, custody, and visitation, as well as responsibilities regarding child support and liability for the child’s misconduct.
Parental right can be terminated voluntarily by the parent(s) or involuntarily by the court to typically allow an agency, independent, or stepparent adoption to take place.
If the other parent does not consent or the whereabouts are unknown to consent for the purposes of adoption, then you will have to file a petition to terminate his or her parental rights, and in most cases, a citation to obtain a hearing date.
Forms and Filing
There is no court form available to terminate parental rights. You will need to draft the required pleading either on your own or with the assistance of a private attorney. Generally, Family Code section 7820 covers termination of parental rights.
Your pleading should clearly request termination of parental rights based on one or more of the below, which ever and however many may apply, including reasons for such request:
- Family Code section 7822 - external link – Abandonment
- Family Code section 7823 - external link – Neglect or cruelty
- Family Code section 7824 - external link – Parents suffering from disability due to alcohol, or controlled substances, or moral depravity
- Family Code section 7825 - external link – Parent convicted of felony, consideration of criminal record prior to felony conviction
- Family Code section 7826 - external link – Parent declared developmentally disabled or mentally ill
- Family Code section 7827 - external link – Mentally disabled parent
You will also need to complete the Investigation Questionnaire Form (FL/E-LP-647) and provide the appropriate documents accompanying your termination request.
Once you complete your petition or request for termination of parental rights and the questionnaire, you may proceed with requesting a termination hearing by completing a citation for hearing (no court form available; citation must be drafted). In some limited circumstances, a termination request can be facilitated without a court hearing by ex parte application.
Whether requesting a hearing or not, all documents shall be submitted to the court drop box at the William R. Ridgeway Family Relations Courthouse. You must submit two copies of all documents with a self-addressed stamped envelope.
Your documents will be reviewed by the court before a hearing can be set or an ex parte is approved. If sufficient, a termination hearing will be set 45 days out or an ex parte order will be signed by the court; either of which will be sent to you. When requesting a hearing please provide the court with available dates on Tuesdays at 11:00 a.m. If deficient, your documents will be sent back to you for further completion.
When you file your petition for termination, you must pay an investigation fee. Check our Fees page for further information.
For more assistance, you may visit the County Law Library or go to the California Courts self-help website.