It is no small thing to consider signing over one’s parental rights. While a court may take parental rights away from a parent if he or she violates the law or is a danger to the child, it is also possible for a parent to voluntarily sign away his or her rights, which ends the legal parent-child relationship.
While this is often a step ordered by the courts against the wishes of the parent, for the child’s safety, there are still times when it is the parent themselves who decide to terminate their own rights, for reasons of their own. Here is what that process might look like.
Deciding to Terminate
The first thing to know is that you cannot decide on your own to terminate your own parental rights. However, if you meet with the custodial parent and obtain their approval to terminate your rights, then together you can coordinate this petition. In this case, the custodial parent would then file the Petition to Terminate Parental Rights with their Court.
At this point, the Court will consider various points of the scenario.
- The communication efforts of the non-custodial parent with the child
- If child support payments have been made or are being made
- The wishes of the child, if he or she is thirteen years or older
- Which decision would be in the best interest of the children themselves
- Whether or not the non-custodial parent ever abandoned the child
- If the non-custodial parent has ever endangered the child in the past
To officially consent to the termination, the signing must be witnessed by two people with all signatures notarized.
Even if a parent has given up their rights, they are still required to pay child support. The custodial parent must agree to waive child support should you be behind in your payments, then you will still owe any child support that was due prior to the termination. If the child is adopted, any future child support obligation is terminated.
In many cases, the District Attorney of the child support enforcement division will be notified of the proceedings, and given the opportunity to object. If the secondary parent’s rights are terminated, there is no other avenue for payment should the custodial parent need to go on government assistance. The custodial parent will have to convince the Court that they have never been on government aid, and will likely never need to be.
If the child support you still owe is solely to the other parent, it is possible to come to some sort of agreement with them. However, if part of that child support arrears is owed to the District Attorney, as reimbursement for government aid given to the custodial parent.
On the other hand, if there is another party ready to adopt the child, then the termination should move forward without the District Attorney becoming involved.
It can be tricky to navigate the complicated steps of terminating one’s parental rights. If it is something that you are certain that you are ready and willing to do, seek expert legal counsel to guide you through the process. This is a major step, and incredibly difficult if not impossible to reverse, so get quality counsel before proceeding.