Q: Can parental rights be terminated for nonpayment of child support?
“Deadbeat dads”– – or “deadbeat moms” for that matter – – earn that harsh title when they fail to pay child support or follow a predetermined visitation schedule after divorce. But as emotionally and financially devastating as this behavior may be on the children and former spouse, neither shortcoming in itself is considered adequate cause to sever parental rights in Arizona absent other factors.
The involuntary severance of parental rights is a traumatic “last resort” recourse that courts will generally only consider when circumstances exist that place the child in imminent physical, mental, or emotional danger. Involuntary termination of parental rights may happen in situations where the parent whose rights are sought to be terminated is not able or not willing to properly care for the child. Examples may be where the parent is chronically ill or incapacitated by physical or mental conditions or substance abuse, or is incarcerated or has chronically neglected or abused the child or other children in the household. Abandonment is another potential ground for the loss of parental rights.
Recently, a woman who was a child of divorce penned a heartbreaking obituary upon learning of her estranged father’s death. The piece was titled “Death of a Deadbeat Dad” and told her tale of a devastated mother and four children being abandoned by their father after the parents divorced. She told of the emotional and financial struggles her mother and siblings faced–each of them differently but all negatively– and how it impacted the people they each grew to become. When he died, she claims she did not mourn the stranger he was, but rather the father he had been at the time he walked out and all the milestones of her and her siblings’ lives that he missed as a result.
If you are required to pay child support and have a significant change in circumstances that affects your ability to pay your obligation, a skilled family law attorney can help you seek a court ordered modification of your obligation. There may be serious consequences for failure to make required child support payments, as well as life-long emotional repercussions for yourself and your estranged children.
If you have any questions regarding child support–whether you are the parent obligated to pay it or the parent entitled to receive it–or any other aspect of divorce law, Cohen Family Law can help you. It’s all we do. Contact us today to set up a free consultation.
From our office in Phoenix, we routinely handle all aspects of family law in a non-judgmental and compassionate manner that’s totally focused on helping our clients resolve their family law issues through mediation, arbitration, or when necessary, litigation.