Can Child Custody Be Revoked in California?

You might think that the battle is over once your divorce has been finalized and you have been given shared or primary custody of your child by the courts. Your custodial rights could be revoked or terminated, however, if your actions appear to jeopardize the safety or well-being of your child – including child abandonment. If you believe that your ex-spouse should have his or her child custody rights revoked, you can petition the courts in San Diego to have your case heard. A San Diego child custody lawyer can help you from either side of this type of case.

What Is Child Abandonment?

One of the most common reasons for child custody modifications and the revocation of custodial rights is child abandonment. Child abandonment in California is defined as leaving a child in the care and custody of the other parent or another person – and providing no financial support or communicating with the child – for a period of at least six months. There must also be intent to abandon the child. Another definition of child abandonment is leaving the child in the care and custody of the other parent for a period of at least one year without communicating with the child.

Under California Penal Code Section 273a, child abandonment can also be charged as a crime in California. If a parent willfully causes or permits a child to suffer (unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering) or willfully causes the child to be injured or placed in a situation where the child’s health is endangered, the parent could be found guilty of a criminal offense. The penalties for child abandonment in California can include imprisonment for one to six years, four years of mandatory probation, stay-away orders (restraining orders), a mandatory child abuse treatment counseling program and/or a fine.

What Happens When a Child Has Been Abandoned?

If your ex-spouse’s actions meet California’s definition of child abandonment, you can initiate a court proceeding to revoke his or her custodial rights. Section 7820 of the California Family Code states that a legal action can be brought for the purpose of having a minor (a child under the age of 18) declared free from the custody of either or both parents if child abandonment is proven with clear and convincing evidence.

A parent’s failure to provide support, communicate with a child or provide identification for the child is presumptive evidence of the intent to abandon. Even if a parent has made token efforts to maintain communication or support the child, the court may still declare the child abandoned. In this scenario, the parent or parents who abandoned the child will be declared free from custody and control of the child. If the child has been abandoned by both parents, he or she may be appointed a different legal guardian (such as a family member), placed up for adoption or entered into the foster care system. 

Can a Parent Voluntarily Revoke Custody?

Yes. In addition to the courts involuntarily terminating a parent’s custodial rights, a parent can voluntarily request that these rights be terminated. There are no official forms available to terminate parental rights in California. If a parent wishes to do this, he or she can draft a pleading with assistance from an attorney. This pleading should clearly request the termination of parental rights and provide a supporting reason, such as abandonment, neglect, substance abuse, a felony conviction or a mental disability. The parent will then have to pay an investigation fee and attend a termination hearing.

Facing a Child Custody Battle in San Diego? Boyd Law Can Help

Whether you wish to terminate or revoke your ex-spouse’s custody rights or are facing a hearing to decide your own parental rights, a San Diego child custody lawyer at Boyd Law can help. Request a free case evaluation with one of our lawyers in San Diego today at (619) 232-1206.