Voluntary Relinquishment of Rights by the Parent

By Jennifer Kiesewetter, J.D.

Voluntary Relinquishment of Rights by the Parent

By Jennifer Kiesewetter, J.D.

Biological parents have specific legal rights when it comes to their children. Parents have the right to make crucial decisions regarding their children's health care, education, religion, visitation and custody, or inheritance of property. However, in some cases, a parent may want to give up these rights, thus terminating their legal parental relationship with their child.

Little girl looking sad and holding a teddy bear

Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights

When a parent decides to terminate their parental rights, then that parent is voluntarily terminating the parent-child relationship. When terminating parental rights, the parent gives up their ability to make decisions for their child, such as educational and health care decisions.

Further, that parent cannot talk to or see their child until the child turns 18 years of age. The child also cannot inherit any property from their parent under state's estate planning laws, unless that parent explicitly explicitly for such inheritance in a will.

It's most common that parents voluntarily terminate their parental rights in cases of adoption. When giving up a baby or child for adoption, the biological parents must terminate their parental rights, which the adopted parents will inherit.

Each state has differing laws regarding the termination of parental rights. To understand your local rules, contact your county's family law court to understand what forms must be submitted and what requirements must be met to terminate your rights. And because you shouldn't take lightly your potential termination of rights, you should also contact an experienced family law attorney who can help you with your case.

Considerations to Make When Facing a Difficult Choice

Terminating your parental rights is a life-altering decision. You should give considerable thought to this choice before proceeding with the local court.

Family court judges take these matters seriously. Courts will make sure that the parent making the request fully understands the impact of their choice. Additionally, the court makes sure that the parent making the request isn't trying to avoid certain obligations, such as paying child support.

If your child is over age 12, the court may ask your child about their wishes. Each state has different rules about when a court can consider a child's desire. Finally, the court will consider the best interests of the child, including the child's stability.

When Foster Care Is Used

If the termination of parental rights leaves the child with no legal parents, then the child will enter the state's foster care program. In most circumstances, before the state can place a child in foster care, the state must file a petition under the Adoption and Safe Families Act. This act requires permanency planning for children placed in foster care, including family reunification. Furthermore, this act emphasizes the safety of each child in the foster care system.

In certain circumstances, the state does not have to file a petition under the act. For example, a state can place a child directly into foster care if the parent(s) abandoned the child as an infant, the parent murdered one of their other children, or the parent committed a felony resulting in serious bodily harm to the child or another child in the family.

Most states don't allow parents to reinstate their parental rights after they terminated them. To understand what occurs when you voluntarily terminate your parental rights, consider contacting a skilled family law attorney to discuss options with you. It's a life-altering decision. Arm yourself with the information you need to make sure it's the right one.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.