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What type of attorney do we need? Family Law? Juvenile Law? Both?

Phoenix, AZ |

I am a mother of a 3-year old. I share joint custody with my ex who has not paid child support or contributed in any way since the divorce. He was ordered in the divorce decree to pay child support and health insurance for the child. He has not paid any of it. I am now engaged to a man who has been financially caring for us, and raising my son as his own for 2 years now. When we get married he would like to adopt my son. We would like my ex to sign over his parental rights even if it means offering him a deal that eliminates his financial debt to the child. What are the odds of this happening? If not, we would like to gain full custody and eventually adopt. What are the necessary steps? Thank you for your assistance. ---S.

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Attorney answers 2


You have several issues here. Parental rights terminations are handled by the Juvenile Court, and I strongly suggest you contact a qualified attorney to discuss the issues. Failure to pay support is not sufficient grounds to terminate rights, but abandonment can be. Under ARS 8-531: " 'Abandonment' means the failure of a parent to provide reasonable support AND to maintain regular contact with the child, including providing normal supervision. Abandonment includes a judicial finding that a parent has made only minimal efforts to support and communicate with the child. Failure to maintain a normal parental relationship with the child without just cause for a period of six months constitutes prima facie evidence of abandonment." That said, even if parental rights are terminated, the child support obligation will not terminate until/unless the child is adopted. It is also worth noting that ARS 8-114(C) states: "a person shall not be directly or indirectly compensated for giving or obtaining consent to place a child for adoption." This means you cannot offer to waive child support in exchange for the Father's consent. Proceed with caution if you are thinking of entering any type of agreement that includes compensation. Good luck to you and your family.

You can reach DeWitt-Lopez Law, P.C. by calling 602.263.3900 or visiting All of my responses to questions posted on AVVO are intended as general information based upon the facts stated in the question, and are provided for educational purposes of the public, not any specific individual, and my response to the question above is not legal advice and it does not create an attorney-client relationship. I am licensed to practice in the State of Arizona. If you would like to obtain specific legal advice about this issue, you must contact an attorney who is licensed to practice law in your state.


I agree with my colleague. You also mentioned you have joint custody. I am assuming he has visitation and may be exercising his time. If he has visitation and is exercising his time, then I would find it extremely difficult for you to obtain an adoption without him consenting to a termination of his rights. That said, if he hasn't been around for a long time, then you may have a better shot at terminating his rights. Failure to pay child support is not a sufficient reason to terminate rights, and that obligation would continue even after his rights are terminated, unless the child is in fact adopted. Good luck.

This answer is provided for general information only and is not to be construed as legal advice. This response is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship.

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