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Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights


Updated Jan 2024

Family law leans heavily on the concept of parental rights, which include a parent’s rights to make decisions about a child’s education, healthcare, and upbringing, as well as the right to make major decisions on behalf of a child. However, parental rights also come with significant responsibilities. A parent must provide basic necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter, but must also arrange child support, healthcare, and other similar needs. In some cases, a parent may decide to voluntarily relinquish his or her parental rights.

The court will often consider a parent’s request to voluntarily terminate his or her parental rights if another individual is willing to step in and care for the child, as in the case of adoption. If a child’s parent remarries a new spouse who is willing to assume legal custody and parental rights of the child, the other parent may voluntarily terminate his or her rights to allow for the adoption to take place. Some of the most common reasons for a person to voluntarily terminate his or her parental rights include:

  • Making way for an adoption.
  • Long-term mental illness or mental deficiency of the parent.
  • Long-term substance abuse of the parent.
  • Failure to maintain contact with a child.

In these cases, a parent may recognize his or her own inability to care for the child and voluntarily relinquish his or her parental rights. In other cases, the court may revoke an individual’s parental rights for a number of reasons, such as incarceration, a history of sexual abuse, physical abuse, or neglect of children.

What Happens If I Give Up My Parental Rights?

If you voluntarily terminate your parental rights, you won’t have any financial obligations to your child anymore, but you will likely also lose the ability to play a role in your child’s life or have any say in major decisions about your child’s upbringing, education, spiritual life, or any similar matters.

It’s very important to take this decision very seriously, as it is very difficult to reverse or alter. In some cases, you and your ex-spouse may be able to devise a mutually agreeable solution that allows for visitation, but this will only be an option if your ex-spouse is agreeable to the idea after you voluntarily terminate your parental rights.

It’s also important to remember that you have no guarantee of approval with a request to terminate your parental rights. The court’s primary focus is the best interests of the child. If your ex-spouse does not wish to have a role in your child’s life but you cannot afford to support your child on your own, the court may decide that what is expedient for the parents is not in the child’s best interests. There must be good cause for a parent to voluntarily terminate his or her parental rights. Simply not wishing to be a parent is not good enough. A judge will also refuse to grant a termination of parental rights simply so you don’t have to pay child support.

Adoption Reversal

In adoptions, birth parents voluntarily give up parental rights to the adoptive parents. However, if a birth parent does so under coercion or duress and does not truly wish to give up a child, he or she can sometimes secure a reversal through the family law system. The parent arguing for reversal and reinstatement of parental rights will need to provide evidence that the termination occurred under coercion or duress.

Ultimately, when it comes to voluntary termination of parental rights or reinstatement of involuntarily terminated parental rights, the court will decide with the child’s best interests in mind. Just remember that if you file for termination of your parental rights voluntarily, it is very difficult to reverse such a decision, and you may be giving up any chance of having a relationship with your child.

The process of adoption reversal is not only legally complex but also emotionally challenging for all parties involved. When a birth parent seeks to reverse an adoption, it often leads to a delicate situation where the needs and attachments of the child, the rights of the adoptive parents, and the desires of the birth parent must be carefully balanced. Courts typically require substantial evidence to consider reversing an adoption, such as proving the existence of fraud, misrepresentation, or that the consent was not given voluntarily. It is crucial for birth parents to understand that the legal standard for reversing an adoption is high, and the process can be lengthy and emotionally taxing. The child’s emotional stability and attachments formed with the adoptive family are also significant factors in the court’s decision. This makes the prospect of reversing an adoption a decision that requires careful consideration and experience custody attorneys, keeping in mind the profound impact it may have on the child’s life and well-being.

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