Termination of Parental Rights/Freedom from Parental Custody and Control Investigations
If a party asks the court to end the parental rights of a child’s parent, the court will appoint the Family Court Services Department to investigate the petition and write a report with a recommendation supporting or denying the request. The fee for the investigation is $550.
The investigation process, called Freedom from Parental Custody and Control or Termination of Parental Rights (FCC) Investigation involves interviews of the parties, professionals, and others to allow the Investigator to determine if a parent has abandoned the child and/or if it is in the child’s best interest that a parents’ rights are terminated. This may be a necessary legal step before a party can adopt a child.
A Termination of Parental Rights (FCC) Investigation is done through Family Court Services in ALL case types except Dependency Court. FC 7820 is the code governing FCC matters.
When the parties complete the Petition to Declare Free/Request to Terminate Parental Rights paperwork, regardless of if it is within an Adoption filing or as a separate action, Family Court Services will be appointed to investigate the matter.
- The clerk will complete the Order and set a hearing on the termination to occur, usually, no more than 45 days from the date the filing was completed. The Investigation Report should be filed at least 5 days prior to the hearing.
- The filing party should receive an SPA/FCC Investigation Packet by e-mail, link to the court’s website, or at the counter.
- The packet should be completed and submitted to Family Court Services as quickly as possible. The investigation interviews won’t be scheduled until the whole packet is returned.
- With each filing of an FCC, the clerk collects a fee of $550 for the investigation.
- The amount charged is per parent whose rights are being terminated.
- If there are three children with three separate case numbers, but there are only two biological parents whose rights are being terminated, the fee is $1100.
- Family Court Services will not set cases for the investigation interview when FCS has not yet been appointed and/or there is no pending hearing on the matter.
Stepparent Adoption Investigation
- In Stepparent Adoption cases, the petitioner must choose someone to investigate their petition. The Family Court Services Department will be assigned if that is the Petitioner’s selection on their papers. The fee for the investigation is $450. Family Court Services does Adoption Investigations in Step Parent Adoption cases, only, and no other adoption case types.
- The Family Court Services Investigator will:
- Interview family members, including all adult and minor members of the household ages 6 and up.
- Gather a history of the family and investigate the family dynamics.
- Review criminal background checks of the petitioner(s).
- Obtain consent from the child through interview if child is 12 years old or older.
- Using the information obtained during the investigation the Investigator determines if the petition to adopt is in the best interest of the child(ren) and makes a written recommendation regarding adoption petition.
- When parties complete adoption paperwork (ADOPT-200, item 12e) that indicates they wish the court to choose an investigator, FCS is referred the case.
- The filing party will receive an SPA/FCC Investigation Packet by e-mail, at the counter, or by being referred to the Court’s Website.
- The packet should be completed and returned to Family Court Services right away. Family Court Services cannot schedule the investigation interviews to begin the investigation until the packets and all required supporting documents have been received.
- With each filing of an SPA where box 12e is checked, if the adoption is ready to move forward (i.e., no termination of parental rights is required, there are necessary consents on file, or some other qualifier proves the adoption can proceed) the clerk collects a fee of $450 for the investigation.
- The amount collected is per family, so if there are three children being adopted with three separate case numbers, the fee is still $450 UNLESS there are different sets of biological parents.
- If the petition includes a Declare Free/Terminate petition, a fee of $550 per family is collected and the Adoption Fee IS NOT COLLECTED until the parties are ready to move forward with the adoption investigation.
- If the case needs an order terminating a parent’s right, that investigation must happen first, and the Family Court Services Department must wait until 60 days after the Parental Termination of Rights is ordered and notice provided to the parent whose rights were terminated (if required) before beginning an Step Parent Adoption Investigation.
- The 60-day waiting period after the Termination of Parental Rights is granted and before starting the Step Parent Adoption Investigation is to allow the parent whose rights have been terminated to file an appeal.
- Once the Step Parent Adoption Investigation Report is filed with the court, the Petitioner can contact the court to request that an adoption hearing is set.