Parental rights are something that should not be taken lightly. State and federal courts take these rights very seriously.
However there are certain situations in which termination of these rights is necessary.
Who has the right and the power to terminate these rights? And is there such a thing as voluntary termination of parental rights?
Termination of Parental Rights: Who Has the Right to Do It and Why?
One of the roles of the government is to protect its citizens, including the children.
Therefore, the courts have had to determine whether certain parents had the right to retain custody of their children.
If a child is not cared for properly, if their safety and wellbeing are in jeopardy, social services may approach the court in an effort to terminate the parent’s custodial rights.
Some examples of this is if a child is being physically, mentally, sexually, or emotionally abused, as well as if the parents are dangerously neglectful.
Once the parent’s rights are terminated, the child can be adopted by someone else.
Likewise, if the parents are separated or divorced, a custodial parent may seek the court’s assistance in terminating the rights of the non-custodial parent.
There are a couple of reasons for this. They could be worried about the child’s safety, or perhaps the non-custodial parent doesn’t attempt to have a relationship with their child.
Besides reasons of abuse, the following scenarios are often viewed as grounds for termination.
- Abandonment or parental disinterest
- The parent has long-term mental illness
- Long-term drug and alcohol abuse
- The parent doesn’t provide financially or educationally for the child
- The parent fails to comply with court orders
- The parent forces or coerces the child to commit a crime
- Pregnancy resulted because of incest or rape
- A child is born addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Before being able to terminate a parent’s rights, the courts must produce convincing evidence that termination of parental rights is in the best interests of the child.
Why Would a Parent Voluntarily Terminate Their Parental Rights?
In some cases, a parent willingly gives up their rights. This can only be done when the parent wants to give their child up for adoption. The adoptive parents could be the child’s foster parents, relatives, or a stepparent.
When they do this, they are physically and legally cut off from their child – just as a parent would be if their rights were terminated by decision of the court.
A parent who decides to do this will have no say in the way the child is being brought up. Where the child goes to school, their religion, and all medical decisions are made by the adoptive and custodial parent.
They wouldn’t even be able to contact the child without the consent of the custodial parent or the adoptive parents.
Why might a parent decide to give up their rights and allow someone else to adopt their child?
Oftentimes, the parent recognizes that they aren’t able to provide for the physical, mental, and emotional needs of the child. They understand that the custodial parent and their new spouse – or some other adoptive couple – is better equipped to do this.
In other words, the parent realizes that it is in the child’s best interests to give up their rights.
If a parent chooses to go this route, they need to talk to a family lawyer. The attorney can help the parent accurately complete a voluntary termination of parental rights document.
However, many states don’t have a termination of parental rights document or petition. Instead, they’ll have to fill out another type of family form that covers termination of rights.
For example, in Sacramento, California, various petitions in Family Code section 7820 cover parental rights termination. Different family codes relate to different reasons for termination, including:
- Neglect or cruelty
- Substance abuse or moral depravity
- A felony conviction
- Mental illness or developmental disability.
There are also other forms that need to be completed and the possibility of a hearing. Having an attorney walk you through it will make the process easier and less stressful.
Does Signing Over Parental Rights Stop Child Support?
Some parents consider giving up their rights because they can no longer pay child support.
If you’re having financial issues and have considered giving up your rights because of it, you might want to think again.
Yes, signing over your rights relieves you of your child support payment responsibilities, but only in situations of adoption.
Even if your ex remarries, your obligation to make payments is still ongoing – unless their new spouse is willing to adopt the child. In that case, you don’t have to make payments any more.
If the court has terminated your rights, then you are no longer responsible for making support payments.
When considering voluntary termination, talk to your attorney before you make any drastic decisions. Your attorney can help you apply for a support payment modification. You may find the new agreement adequately fits your budget – and you still get to have a part in your child’s life.
Termination of Parental Rights Should Never be Taken Lightly
If you aren’t the custodial parent and you’re considering voluntary termination of parental rights or your ex wants you to give up your rights – don’t simply give up.
Contact a family attorney to talk you through the process and answer all of your questions. You should know all of the facts before giving up these rights.
Equally, if you’re the custodial parent and want the rights of your ex to be terminated, you should talk to a lawyer as well.
Your lawyer will inform you of your rights, those of your ex, and whether or not there are grounds for termination.
Getting all the facts before you go ahead with termination proceedings will save a lot of hassle and make you feel better about your decision.