Q: Can child abuse lead to severance of parental rights?
Those of a certain age may fondly recall a television sitcom called The Brady Bunch. It was not just the story of a lovely lady raising three girls who met a fellow who had three boys of his own. It was the story of stepparent adoption.
The grown-ups met, fell in love and married, and a loving, blended family was the result. The girls took the “Brady” surname and called their new stepfather “Dad” and audiences never saw the biological father. Very often, stories like this form the basis of
Stepparent adoptions generally happen when a custodial parent remarries and the new spouse would like to adopt their children. In order for this to happen, the biological parent’s parental rights must be terminated voluntarily or involuntarily. After said termination of rights, the stepparent adoption may proceed.
Sadly, not all blended families have such happy endings.
An alleged repeated domestic violence abuser with three kids of his own has reportedly been charged with three counts of felony child abuse against his girlfriend’s three children. His own three children were reportedly not abused. The charges stem from allegations of “horrific abuse for four years” including allegations of:
yelling, kicking, and spanking
forced ingestion of hot peppers
locked in bathroom
forced physical exercises
beatings with spatulas, hangers, and belts
Perhaps most shockingly, the children allege that he deprived them of food and forced them to eat “parts of shoes” and rewarded the one who ate the most with real breakfast food. The mother allegedly “tried to escape 30 or 40 times over the years” before finally succeeding with a neighbor’s and her sister’s help.
While the alleged abuser is not the parent and therefore has no parental rights with respect to his girlfriend’s three children, circumstances which could lead to the involuntary severance of parental rights of one’s own children include among other things chronic neglect or abuse of other children in the household and conviction of a parent for a felony and/or parental incarceration.
Sometimes, parents seek modification orders of child custody arrangements when a significant change of circumstances arises that would make a modification of the existing arrangement in the best interest of the children. Such orders can be expedited if the child’s safety is in jeopardy.
If you or a loved one is a victim of domestic violence and need help leaving the household or if you have questions regarding severance of paternal rights, stepparent adoption, or any other family law matter, Cohen Family Law can help you. Contact us today for a consultation.
From our office in Phoenix, we’ve represented families in transition throughout Arizona since 1982 in all aspects of family law.