Updated: May 2, 2022
Many people think of parental rights as absolute things that can not be taken away, but this is not true in a number of circumstances. Recently, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the state is empowered to take away parental rights if a parent is unable to leave an abusive relationship on the basis that doing so was in the best interests of the involved children. This ruling is worth examining because it will likely have an influence on additional parental rights cases in the state. If you find yourself at risk of losing parental rights, you should not hesitate to obtain the assistance of a seasoned family law attorney who understands what is at stake and who will fight for the best possible results.
HOW THE CASE AROSE
The case in question involves a mother who was living in an abusive relationship with the father of a young child. While the woman was away at work in 2015, the father severely beat the child. When the mother did not take the child to a medical professional for treatment, her sister and cousin did. Medical professionals determined that the child had a rib fracture, a tibia fracture, and multiple bruises. The couple’s slightly older, but still young child also received multiple bruises from this incident. After the hospital contacted the Department of Child Safety, the children were placed into the custody of the state of Arizona. For the next 18 months, both parents received drug testing and psychological counseling. While the mother passed numerous consecutive drug tests, psychologists noted that she exhibited poor judgment in caring for her children.
WHAT THE COURTS HAD TO SAY
In November 2016, an Arizona Juvenile court decided to sever the mother’s parental rights and place the children with foster parents. Although the mother did not agree to terminate her rights, she refused to testify in juvenile court. As a result, the mother did not provide the court with a reason for not taking the child to the hospital when injured. The mother, however, did inform the court that she had ended the abusive relationship, even though the father told a psychologist conflicting information.
The juvenile court, however, noted that while the mother loved her children, she still continued to be in an abusive relationship. When the case proceeded to the appellate level, the Arizona Court of Appeals disagreed with the juvenile court and found that parents have a Constitutional right to raise their children. The Appellate court also noted that the only evidence that it was in the best interest of the children to place them with a foster family was that the children were adoptable. The case, however, proceeded to the Arizona Supreme Court, which reversed the appeals court's opinion. As a result, the children were again placed in the care of their mother.
CONTACT AN EXPERIENCED FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY TODAY
At Monahan Law, we understand just how frightening the prospect of losing your parental rights can be. Fortunately, we have been able to help many parents and guardians successfully navigate complex family law situations. Contact our family law attorneys in Arizona to schedule a consultation during which time we will collect details about your case and help you decide how best to move forward.