Whether you are an individual or married couple choosing to grow your family through a private adoption, a stepparent wishing to legally adopt your spouse’s child, or a relative, kinship, or foster placement desiring to adopt a child involved in a termination of parental rights matter, the McCarthy Law Firm will walk you through the legal adoption process with the goal of giving that child his or her “forever family.” When complications or delays arise, having a skilled attorney at the helm is critical to steering the case back on course toward finalization of the adoption. Although the adoption process can be tedious and frustrating at times, it is important to ensure that all requirements have been met the first time around to prevent further setbacks or future challenges to the adoption.
When it comes the well-being of children, there are times when the Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS) becomes involved with families. If DCS (formerly known as Child Protective Services or CPS) receives a report that a child may be at risk, they will conduct an investigation and determine whether further steps need to be taken to alleviate that risk, at least on a temporary basis. Sometimes this may rise to the level of removing a child from the home of one or both parents, or from a third-party caregiver who lacks the legal ability to make important decisions for the child.
Ultimately, DCS may file a child dependency action in juvenile court and assert that there is no parent or guardian willing or capable of providing that child with proper and effective parental care and control. If that child is adjudicated a dependent child, there will be further proceedings to determine if and when the child can be returned to one or both parents’ care or a legal guardian.
Even at the investigation stage, it is important to know one’s rights in the process, and what legal and practical precautions should be taken to preserve the family unit while balancing the best interests of the child. The McCarthy Law Firm can help you navigate through this nuanced area of law that involves some of the most precious people in life – your children.
Termination of Parental Rights
In Arizona, any person or agency that has a legitimate interest in the welfare of a child may file a petition for the termination of the parent-child relationship or a “severance” action. The petitioner must allege one or more grounds for termination under Arizona law, which may include things like abandonment, neglect or abuse, or inability to discharge parental responsibilities because of mental illness, mental deficiency or historical and continuing substance abuse. Sometimes a parent decides to consent to the termination of the parent-child relationship, which can also be a sufficient legal ground for severance. Beyond proving one or more grounds, however, the court must also find that it is in the best interest of the child to terminate the parent-child relationship.
- In a situation where only one parent is unable to sufficiently execute his or her parental duties, parenting-time and legal decision-making orders through the family law court may resolve the concerns. This is an option that the McCarthy Law Firm will assess prior to filing any action in juvenile court.
- For any potential termination of parental rights matter, It is important to have a thorough consultation with an attorney to determine what the options are for your case based on your individual circumstances. The McCarthy Law Firm can help you through this process.
Foster Parent / Relative / Kinship Litigation
During the course of a child dependency or severance case in which the Department of Child Safety (DCS) is involved, contested placement hearings may arise when there is a dispute as to whom the child should be placed with and ultimately adopted by if reunification with one or both parents cannot be achieved. he Court must consider the best interests of the child in these proceedings, which often results in weighing the competing interests of foster parents, relatives, and kinship placements.
- Although a child’s current placement (foster, relative, or kinship) has the ability to address the court regarding any updates or concerns, he or she does not have standing to participate as a party in dependency litigation or obtain key disclosure related to the litigation absent a court order permitting legal intervention. Grandparents, other family members, and kinship who are seeking placement of the child may face similar complications when DCS or one of the other parties is advocating for or against a particular placement option without a sufficient mechanism for that prospective placement to be heard.
- Whether you are a current or prospective placement for a child, The McCarthy Law Firm can evaluate your situation and determine whether or not it is necessary to seek third-party intervention in the juvenile proceedings.