Voluntary Relinquishment of Rights by the Parent

By Robin Elizabeth Margolis

If you are a birth or adoptive parent and considering giving up your parental rights to your child, you are not alone. Parents voluntarily relinquish their legal rights to their children in a wide variety of circumstances, including divorce, adoption, family legal guardianship and foster care.


Voluntary relinquishment of parental rights occurs when parents decide, of their own free will, that they would like to terminate their relationship with their children. Relinquishment means you cannot make decisions about your children and you cannot see or talk with them again until they are at least 18 years old. Your state may allow you to retain visitation rights with your children if you specifically request this in writing. Relinquishment may mean your children cannot inherit anything from you unless you specifically include them in your will. Relinquishment is usually permanent and rarely canceled by a court.

Parental Rights

Parental rights are legally defined as a parent's right to make major life decisions on behalf of their children, such as where they will attend school, what faith or traditions they will be taught and what doctors and dentists they will see. While a series of modern Supreme Court decisions have intervened in state lawsuits to define and protect parental rights, there is no specific language in the U.S. Constitution that addresses parental rights.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Child Relinquishment Conditions

Each state has its own laws and procedures for voluntary relinquishment of parental rights. You will need to consult your own state's laws and court procedures, as the conditions in each state for giving up your children in divorce, adoption, family guardianship, paternity claims and foster care legal proceedings vary and involve different legal forms, state agencies and state courts. In some situations, you file a petition for termination of parental rights with a state court, in which you explain to the court why you wish to give up your children. Court approval is always necessary to legally relinquish your children. If you informally drop off your child with an ex-spouse, relative, friend or potential adoptive parents without getting formal court approval, you can be charged with child abandonment.

Valid Relinquishment Procedures

A legally valid voluntary relinquishment of your children requires strict compliance with the legal forms and court proceedings that govern your particular situation. For example, a voluntary child relinquishment in Missouri might require you to sign local juvenile court consent forms, receive a custody order from that court, appear before the court several times and then obtain a court order severing your parental rights. A court may deny your request to voluntarily relinquish your parental rights. One reason courts sometimes refuse such requests is when a court decides a divorcing parent is trying to evade legitimate child support obligations. Voluntary relinquishments of children are occasionally set aside by the courts. One situation that sometimes occurs in adoption proceedings is when state laws protecting biological parents' rights are not followed. A court may then invalidate the adoption and return the adopted baby to the birth parents.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
How to Voluntarily Relinquish Parental Rights in Maryland



Related articles

How to Get Child Custody Rights Revoked in Arkansas

Revoking custody rights -- often a part of terminating parental rights altogether -- is a serious legal move that should be reserved for extreme cases of child abuse or neglect. Arkansas law prioritizes the best interests of the child above all other considerations and courts will only revoke custody rights if the judge feels it is in the child's best interest to do so. Custody rights may be revoked temporarily while a parent gets treatment or, in cases of chronic abuse, a parent's rights to her child may be terminated if she shows no hope of improvement.

How to Absolve Parental Rights in Ohio When Parents Are Divorced

Ohio courts typically split custody between divorcing parents in a manner they feel is best for the children. Though courts can award sole custody, thereby giving legal rights to one parent over the other, parents without custody do not automatically lose parental rights. Instead, Ohio requires a separate process to take away a parent’s rights completely.

The Surrendering of Parental Rights in Colorado

Before adoptive parents can adopt a baby or child, Colorado state laws generally require a surrender of parental rights by the birth parents. Colorado adoption laws include requirements for the surrender of parental rights through an adoption consent. The specific requirements can vary depending on the marital status of the birth parents.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Can You Lose Custody by Denying Visitation?

You can lose custody of your child by denying the other parent visitation. Denial of visitation can also result in a ...

Laws on False Paternity

DNA testing is increasingly common and accurate, increasing many people's awareness that the purported father of a ...

Giving Up Parental Rights Through Adoption & Getting Your Kids Back

As a birth parent of a child being offered for adoption, you can change your mind, cancel your relinquishment of ...

Terminating Visitation Due to Incarceration

If your ex-spouse ends up in jail, he can’t have normal visitation with your children, but he doesn’t necessarily lose ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED