Termination of Parental Rights

Here’s a typical tale of Arizona Termination of Parental Rights…

Minnie and Mickey had a baby eight years ago named Missy. They were never married. They entered into an agreement and filed it with the court that gave Minnie sole legal decision-making and no parenting time for Mickey. Mickey was heavily involved in drugs and had no interest in being around Missy at the time. Mickey picked up and moved to another state.

It has now been eight years and Mickey has not seen Missy, paid any financial support for Missy, or tried to get in contact with her. Minnie has tried to reach out to Mickey and his family without any response. Minnie has no idea where Mickey is living. Minnie is engaged and has two other children with her fiancé, Donald. She wants Donald to be able to adopt Missy when they get married. She also wants to take Missy out of the country for vacations, but cannot get a passport for her as long as Mickey is her legal father. What should Minnie do?

If Minnie wants to get Missy a passport and Donald wants to adopt her, Minnie has to terminate Mickey’s parental rights. To do this, Minnie needs to file a completed Petition to Terminate. In the Petition, Minnie should detail Mickey’s non-existence, his lack of financial support, and her attempts to contact him. There is a standard form that should be used for this. Minnie can ask the clerk at the Juvenile Court to help her, look online at the self-help forms, or speak with an attorney.

Minnie needs to serve Mickey with the Petition to Terminate. This may be difficult since she does not know where he is. She should start with Mickey’s last known address. Minnie can do other things, such as look and see if Mickey has a Facebook. Minnie should also hire a private investigator to do a skip trace based on Mickey’s last known location. Minnie should also reach out to Mickey’s family members again.

Once Minnie has taken all of the above actions, she can request “alternative service” from the judge. The judge will likely allow Minnie to serve by publication. This means that Minnie will need to contact a local paper where Mickey is believed to be and have the paper publish the Petition and Summons for four weeks. After that, Minnie will get a document from the paper showing that it was published.

A trial date will be set. Minnie will need to take all of her service documentation with her. Additionally, a guardian ad litem will be assigned to her case. This person will interview Minnie, Donald, and Missy. This person will make a recommendation to the judge whether or not Mickey’s rights should be terminated. This recommendation will happen at the trial.

If the guardian ad litem is supportive of the termination and the judge agrees, Mickey’s rights will be terminated at the trial. After that, Minnie will be able to get a passport for Missy, and Donald will be able to adopt Missing after they get married.