Your paternal rights, including the right to withhold consent to an adoption, can be terminated if you are found to be “statutorily unfit” as defined under California Family Law Code. This finding must be proved by clear and convincing evidence. The grounds for parental unfitness include abandonment, disability due to alcohol or controlled substance, and conviction of a felony.
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Parents’ rights to custody of their children is subject to a court’s determination that it is the child’s best interest to have the parents raise their children.
In a most recent case, the Court of Appeals reversed a trial court’s decision to terminate a parents’ rights in favor of adoptive parents. The trial court concluded that it was not in the best interests of the child to be placed in an “unfit home.” An unfit home was cited as the parents’ inability to provide a stable and protective environment which would place the child at a substantial risk of harm.
The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court decision to state that the “[E]stablishment of the parent-child relationship is the most fundamental right a child possesses to be equated in importance with personal liberty and the most basic of constitutional rights.”…Likewise, parents have a fundamental liberty interest in the custody, care, management and companionship of their children…Thus it is only under specified circumstances, and upon specific findings that include the interests of the child, that a court has authority to terminate parents’ rights.”
In another decisions, the Court of Appeals has stated: “Parenting is a fundamental right, and accordingly, is disturbed only in extreme cases of persons acting in a fashion incompatible with parenthood.” “We have previously recognized that ‘”the interest of a parent in the companionship, care, custody, and management of his children is a compelling one, ranked among the most basic of civil rights.”… A parent’s interest in maintaining a parent-child relationship is an extremely ‘important interest’ …, and termination of that right by the state must be viewed as a drastic remedy ‘to be applied only in extreme cases.’”
In general, a man is presumed to be the natural father of a child if he is married to, or has attempted to marry, the child’s mother when the child is born, or he has received the child into his home and he holds the child out as his natural child. A biological father “has a constitutionally cognizable opportunity interest in developing a relationship with his child.” A father who did not marry the mother, will be presumed to be the father if he “promptly comes forward and demonstrates a full commitment to his parental responsibilities – emotional, financial, and otherwise – his federal constitutional right to due process prohibits the termination of his parental relationship absent a showing of his unfitness as a parent…Absent such a showing, the child’s well-being is presumptively best served by continuation of the father’s parental relationship. Similarly, when the father has come forward to grasp his parental responsibilities, his parental rights are entitled to equal protection as those of the mother.
A father, to protect his rights to raise his child and avoid adoption, must take a paternity test establishing him as the biological father and must exercise the amount of time he was allowed to care for the child evidencing his commitment to emotionally support the child.
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