Arizona Divorce Attorney | Termination of Parental Rights

Termination of parental rights in juvenile court

Speaker 1: This is Arizona Family Talk Radio, a podcast about all things family. With your host, family law attorney, Scott David Stewart.
Scott Stewart: Hello everybody, I’m attorney Scott David Stewart. Welcome to Arizona Divorce Talk Radio. Today I have the pleasure of speaking with Arizona attorney, Carrie Cravatta. Carrie, how are you.
Carrie: I’m doing well, Scott, how are you?
Scott Stewart: I’m doing great, thanks. This is the first time we had an opportunity to get you on the podcast here. If you can, just tell us a little bit about yourself.
Carrie: Okay. Originally from Illinois, that’s where I was born and raised. Went to undergrad and law school in Chicago, graduated and got my Illinois license in 2004. Moved out to Arizona in 2006, licensed in Arizona shortly thereafter that and have been practicing Family Law for so many years now that I have to think about it. I’ve been with the Stewart Law Group for just over a year now.
Scott Stewart: Now, you haven’t been practicing that long that you’ve already lost your mind, have you?
Carrie: No, I haven’t.
Scott Stewart: Okay. Just want to make sure everybody out there knows they’re not to worry, that you haven’t lost your mind yet. You’ve been practicing Family Law. I know one of the things that you enjoy doing is adoption and juvenile work, is that correct?
Carrie: Yes, it is. Very much so.
Scott Stewart: Today, one of the questions that we have for us is pertaining to more juvenile. Although this can be an issue or is an issue a lot of times in adoptions. We’re talking about parental termination or termination of parental rights. Specifically, is that something that has to be done in juvenile court or can that be done in family court as a part of any custody or divorce process?
Carrie: Well, the severance actually takes place or needs to be done in juvenile court. In a family court matter what you can do is enter orders that would give one parent sole legal decision making and be designated as the primary parent. Then, they would also deal with maybe child support issues as well. However, when you talk about a severance or termination of parental rights that does need to be done in juvenile court under a separate petition which is a Petition to Terminate Parental Rights.
Scott Stewart: Now, one of the most common things that comes up, and there are lots of people out there for various reasons. We’re not here to discuss that today why they may want to terminate parental rights but I know we commonly get asked the question of, “If I give up my rights …” Which is what most people say. “If I give up my rights then do I have to pay support?”
Carrie: Yes, you still have to pay support. You are financially obligated, every parent is to supporting natural or adopted children that they may have. Now, with regard to, “I give up my rights, do I still have to pay support,” you do have to pay support. Some parties do choose to waive support or deviate down to zero so that no support would be waived. If the severance then goes on to an adoption where a stepparent adopts or a child is adopted due to being with foster parents or with another relative or an aunt, uncle, so on and so forth, then when the adoption is finalized the biological parent no longer is financially obligated to support the child. That financial obligation doesn’t stop until the adoption order is entered by the juvenile court.
Scott Stewart: Now, you said something that’s interesting. You said that some people may agree to waive support. Is that something that can be done as a part of the termination in juvenile court or are you required to go back to family court to have that done in a separate proceeding?
Carrie: You need to do that in a separate proceeding in family court. Juvenile court doesn’t necessarily deal with the child support that we refer to a lot when we’re talking about kids and custody and parenting time and so forth. The waiver of child support or deviation down to zero needs to be done in the family court proceeding. Any severances, waivers of parental rights, termination, consents to termination, anything like that of parental rights needs to be done in the juvenile court so they are separate.
Scott Stewart: Now, I know I’ve done these a couple of times. I think the standard used to be a little bit easier years ago when I was doing these than it is today. I always remember the person that was giving up their parental rights was always asked whether or not there had been any agreements outside of what was stated on the record in front of the judge. What they’re really saying, is there any type of quid pro quo. Is that still a question that they’re asking?
Carrie: No. It’s not something that is contained in the consent to terminate/adopt or is it something that is asked when a part is on the line with the court or in person with the courts at maybe an initial or secondary, what we would call severance hearing. It’s not something that I’ve heard the court asking recently.
Scott Stewart: I know their concern with that is just that there is an agreement not to pay support or not to do this or do that. They want to make sure that what they’re doing is truly in the child’s best interests and that there hasn’t been something else that can come back and give somebody the basis to file some new document in the future, or anything like that.
Carrie: It is what the court is concerned about. That’s why they’re done, I would imagine why they’re done in the two separate courts and that each one has its own procedure and way of doing things and documents that are necessary for each portion of the agreement, I guess, for lack of a better term.
Scott Stewart: Sure. Okay, awesome. Well, Carrie, I appreciate your time here today and talking to us a little bit about terminating parental rights. I know it’s a question that comes up a lot in family law, especially when we’re talking about adoption and unmarried parents. Thanks again and we’ll talk to you soon.
Carrie: All right, thank you.
Speaker 1: Thank you for listening to Arizona Family Talk Radio.