Parental Rights and Obligations in Arizona

Parental rights and obligations refer to the legal authority a parent has to make decisions that affect their child’s affairs and the parental duties they are statutorily mandated to perform. Parental rights and obligations are common issues that arise in family law, especially child custody cases. It helps to know who makes decisions concerning a child’s education, health, religion, and place of residence. 

Apart from biological parents, parental rights can also apply to adoptive parents, foster parents, and legal guardians. 

Arizona Parent’s Bill of Rights

In 2010, the Arizona State legislature passed the Arizona Parent’s Bill of Rights Act. The act protects the authority that parents have over their minor children and states their parental obligations. Except contrarily stated by the laws, all parents have certain parental rights to direct the affairs of their children without hindrance from the state government and its agencies. Such parental rights include:

  1. Making decisions concerning the child’s health care unless the law prohibits it. For instance, parents must consent to surgical procedures and mental health screening or treatments of their minor child. 
  2. Access to inspect and review records relating to the minor child.
  3. Parents can train the minor child morally or religiously the way they please.
  4. Guiding and participating in the education of the minor child as stated in title 15 of the Arizona Revised Statutes. 
  5. According to Arizona Revised Statutes 8-807, parents have the right to receive the details of an investigation involving them and conducted by child safety services.
  6. Parents must give their permission in writing before the creation, storage, or distribution of any record of the minor child’s blood or deoxyribonucleic acid, or before anyone can conduct genetic testing on the child. 
  7. Parents must be consulted before a biometric scan of the minor. The parent’s consent must be in writing to be valid. 
  8. Parents guide the way a minor child is brought up.
  9. Government agencies and officials are prohibited from making a video or recording the voice of a child unless the parent authorizes it. However, the law allows it if the purpose of the video or recording is necessary for a court proceeding. Police officers or child safety services conducting an investigation are also exempted from this restriction. Another exemption is if the material’s purpose is solely for any of the following:
    1. Surveillance or security of buildings or grounds 
    2. For safety demonstrations.
    3. Academic or extracurricular exercises.
    4. A photo identification card.
    5. The school uses it for regular classroom instructions.

10. Unless prohibited by the law, parents have unrestricted access to get the medical records of their minor children. However, they may not enjoy this right during the period of an investigation for a crime they commit and the minor child is a victim.

11. Parents must receive prompt notice if a state official or any government division/agency has reasons to believe that the minor child is a victim of a criminal act perpetrated by someone. However, the law can overlook this if the incident was reported to law enforcement officers, and the notice may disrupt the ongoing investigation.

While this act grants parental rights to individuals in Arizona, these rights may be suspended or overlooked during a child welfare investigation. The state can establish that the parent exercising such rights is against the welfare of the child. Usually, the Arizona Department of Child Safety becomes involved in cases of child abuse, abandonment, neglect, or exploitation. 

Termination of Parental Rights 

The termination of parental rights in Arizona will take away the parent’s access to the child and relinquish associated obligations. Usually, anyone with reasons to believe the child is not well cared for by the parent can petition the court to terminate parental rights. If the court terminates parental rights, it ends the parent-child relationship, and the parent no longer has the right to make decisions on behalf of the child. Associated obligations like paying child support no longer apply to the individual.

Termination of parental rights can be involuntary or voluntary. A voluntary termination involves the parent giving up parental rights willingly. However, the court can only approve this if another eligible person wishes to assume parentage of the child through adoption or other legal means. 

The court has the authority to order the involuntary termination of parental rights. If a person with a legitimate interest in the child’s well-being petitions for the termination, the court will consider the following as evidence for grounds for such action:

  • That the supposed father failed to file a notice of claim of paternity during the required time.
  • The court establishes evidence showing neglect of the child or child abuse by the parent, causing severe physical or emotional injury or situations to the child.
  • If the parent abandons the child.
  • When the parent has a felony conviction that restricts their activities (due to incarceration), and this proves the incompetence of the parent or will deprive the child of a normal home particularly for a lengthy incarceration period.
  • When the parent cannot fulfill their duties as a result of mental illness, mental deficiency, or a history of severe misuse of hard drugs, controlled substances, or intoxicants. 
  • The court has ended their parental rights to another child within the past two years for the same grounds as the new case, and the parents are still unable to perform their obligations.
  • If there is no known identity of the parents of a minor child and a conscious effort to find and identify them for three successive months is unsuccessful. 
  • The parents of the child have given up their parental rights to a minor child to a child welfare agency or they consent to the adoption of the child.
  • If all the following information is true:
  1. By the court’s order, the child was cared for in an out-of-home placement by court order.
  2. The agency currently responsible for the child made attempts to provide reunification services.
  3.  The court ordered that the parents get back legal custody of the child after an earlier removal of the child from their custody.
  4. After 18 months of the return of the child to the parent, the court ordered the child’s removal from that parent’s legal custody. The child is then cared for in an out-of-home placement and supervised by the juvenile court, the division, or an authorized agency. The court also establishes that the parent does not fulfill necessary parental duties.