What Happens When a Parent Gives Up Their Rights?

When a baby is born, and both parents are in the picture, they both have rights. There are some parents however who voluntarily give up those parental rights. If one parent gives up their parental rights, the other parent might change their child’s name, and the parent terminating their parental rights is removed from the birth certificate. 

The following are things to know about the implications of a parent terminating their rights. 

An Overview of Termination of Parental Rights

The laws and specifics regarding the termination of parental rights vary depending on the state, so this information is a broad overview. 

A person who voluntarily gives up their parental rights is no longer legally the parent of the child. There is no longer a parent-child relationship, the parent doesn’t raise the child, and that parent doesn’t have the right to talk to the child or visit them. 

The parent, as mentioned, is taken off the birth certificate of the child, and the parent giving up their rights doesn’t have any say in anything that happens. 

One of the reasons that someone might try to voluntarily terminate their parental rights is so they no longer have to pay child support. 

Involuntary termination of parental rights is something that a judge can enact, and it’s taken very seriously. A judge wouldn’t do this unless they had a good reason to do so. 

While, in theory, parents might try to give up their rights to avoid child support, a judge still has to sign off on it. A judge can decide that it’s not in the child’s best interest to terminate the rights of a parent. 

How Does Someone Voluntarily Give Up Parental Rights?

It’s difficult, as mentioned, to voluntarily give up parental rights. Depending on the state, the only way to do it might be through adoption. 

If both parents relinquish their child to an adoption agency, they can terminate their parental rights. 

In some cases, if a child’s other parent has a domestic partner who is going to adopt the child, then the other parent might voluntarily terminate their rights. 

Still, this does require a court order. 

When your parental rights are terminated, it’s permanent, and it’s not something that a parent should take lightly or should do just to avoid child support. 

In some situations, another person might file a petition to terminate the rights of the parent, and then the parent could let it happen as long as the judge felt it was in the best interest of the child. 

In California and Montana, a parent who’s an American Indian can’t lose their parental rights unless an expert testifies the child would be at a high risk of emotional or physical harm. In three states, as well as Puerto Rico, the rights of a parent can’t be terminated because of religious practice, and in four states, parents who aren’t able to care for their children because of poverty can’t lose their rights just because of that. 

Can Parental Rights Be Reinstated?

Depending on where someone lives, a parent might be able to regain parental rights if the state doesn’t permanently place a child within a certain period of time, but this is an adoption-related scenario. 

If one parent is worried that they can’t pay child support and that’s why they’re considering termination of their rights, it’s a much better idea to try and find a different solution. You might, for example, try to get a child support order modification

A lot of programs in states around the country will let parents request a recalculation in child support every few years. If you’ve had a major change in your finances, you might be able to file to modify your child support as well. 

Some courts require the income of the parent to change by a certain percentage, and others will require that the parent show evidence they’ve lost their job involuntarily. Some states will change support if the medical expenses of a child increase by a specific amount. 

What If You Don’t Know Where the Other Parent Is?

Finally, unfortunately, if you don’t know where the other parent is, it can take longer to terminate their rights. You have to make sure the person is served in person, and that allows them to show up to court and defend themselves if that’s what they want to do. If you don’t know where your child’s other parent is, the judge expects you to make every effort to find them. 

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