Abandonment and Termination of Parental Rights in Arizona

termination of parental rightsInvoluntary termination of parental rights is possible under specific circumstances in Arizona.

If you believe that your ex has abandoned the children or if you’re being accused of abandonment, you will have to face a legal process. Abandonment is a serious issue that can have life-changing consequences for both parties involved, as well as for their children.

Arizona Child Abandonment Laws

A.R.S. 8-201(1) states that the abandonment of a child is defined as a failure to support and/or supervise a minor with the intent to neglect to go on for an undetermined period of time.

Based on this legal definition, neglect and the lack of supervision that continue for six months or more will be considered abandonment. Usually, abandonment involves complete abdication from parental responsibilities in a way that could endanger a child.

In some situations, abandonment could also include a failure on behalf of the parent to provide for the basic needs of the child.

While physically abandoning the child is quite often a part of the definition, it doesn’t have to take place for a parent to commit legal abandonment. Children also need love and emotional support. A parent who’s 100 percent committed to building and maintaining a career and who doesn’t care to be involved with their children for a prolonged period of time could be committing abandonment.

When Is Termination of Parental Rights Possible?

Arizona law provides a clear definition of the instances in which the involuntary termination of parental rights is possible. Some of the situations in which this could happen include:

  • Intentional neglect and abandonment of a child
  • A parent being convicted of a crime
  • The termination of the parental rights for another child in the past two years
  • A child has been taken out of their home, reunited with the parent and removed from the home again over the course of 18 months

As you can see, abandonment is the primary reason for the termination of parental rights.

Usually, the other parent will be the one petitioning the court and requesting the termination of parental rights. To do so, they will have to provide sufficient evidence that abandonment has occurred.

In addition, under Arizona Revised Statute 13-3620, people who are mandated to report child abuse and domestic violence to the authorities also have a responsibility to step forward in the case of abandonment. These individuals include teachers, school personnel, health care professionals, stepparents, guardians and peace officers.

Arizona does recognize the fundamental rights of parents to maintain a relationship with their children. Child Protective Services (CPS) will always try to rehabilitate the parent before the termination of parental rights is even considered.

There are situations, however, in which being reunited with the family is against the best interest of the child. If there’s no possibility for rehabilitation, the court will initiate severance actions that will lead to the termination of parental rights.

A parent has the right to appeal a court decision that terminates their parental rights.

If you’re facing child abandonment legal proceedings, you should know that the termination of your parental rights isn’t the only consequences. In Arizona, child abandonment will also contribute to criminal charges.

Child Abandonment is a Criminal Offense

The ramifications of child abandonment are comprehensive.

Parents who neglect or abandon their children could be subjected to criminal proceedings, depending on the circumstances. Under A.R.S. 13-3619, the minimum charge is a Class 1 misdemeanor. The possible penalties for parents found guilty of abandonment include up to six months in prison, a fine of up to 2,500 dollars and three years of probation.

If there are graver circumstances surrounded the case, a person could be charged with a Class 2 felony following the establishment of child abandonment.

The factors that will be determining for the criminal conviction level include the amount of risk that the child has been exposed to as a result of abandonment, whether the abandonment was intentional and whether it was reckless.

In the worst case scenario, criminal child abandonment could lead to a prison sentence of up to 12.5 years because of a felony conviction.

Click here for information on the Arizona child support calculator.