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Request for Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights

Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights

Since a court wants to know why a parent is requesting termination, it is important to understand the state's statutes and requirements for voluntarily terminating parental rights. While state laws and procedures for voluntary termination of parental rights vary, every state requires court approval. Since a court wants to know why a parent is requesting termination, it's important to understand the state's statutes and requirements for voluntarily terminating parental rights.

The Termination Process

The legal forms a parent needs to file may differ, but generally a parent must consent in writing and then file a petition for termination of parental rights with a juvenile, local or state court. Most states require the consent of both the custodial parent and the non-custodial parent who is requesting voluntary termination of parental rights.

Usually, the court needs to find good cause before terminating a parent's rights. Agreement of both parents is not always enough. Regardless of either parent's wishes, the court will decide if termination of parental rights is in the best interests of the child.

Good Cause

Good cause means that a parent must have a legally sufficient reason for voluntarily giving up his or her parental rights to a child. An example of good cause is when someone is willing to adopt the child and take on the legal responsibility for the child's financial, emotional and physical support.

Most times, when a parent voluntarily terminates parental rights, he or she intends to give up the child for adoption—often to a stepparent.

If a parent experiences mental or physical illness or disability and the health issue is likely to continue until the child reaches a mature age, that parent also has good cause to terminate parental rights. The illness or disability must prevent the parent from caring for the child's physical and emotional needs.

However, if the court determines that a parent wants to voluntarily give up his or her parental rights to terminate legitimate child support payments or other financial obligations to the child, it may not grant the petition. Courts are often reluctant to terminate a parent's legal responsibility to contribute to the financial support of the child.

What Termination Means

Once the court terminates a parent's parental rights, he or she is no longer allowed to make major decisions for the child that impact the minor's life. These include decisions relating to:
  • The child's physical and mental health
  • Where the child will live and attend school
  • In what religious faith the child is raised

In most cases, a parent who signs away his or her parental rights may not see or speak to the child again until after the child becomes an adult.

Consent to the Termination of Parental Rights

When the court grants the petition and issues an order to end parental rights, the consent is generally permanent and cannot be revoked. However, the court can set aside voluntary consent to terminate parental rights if consent was obtained by fraud, coercion, duress or when a parent was deemed incompetent. The court may also set aside an order for voluntary termination if state laws protecting the legal rights of a birth parent are not followed during an adoption proceeding.

Termination of Parental Rights and Responsibilities

In cases where a parent is released of his or her parental rights, all the parent's duties and obligations, including financial support, are terminated and the parent loses all rights to custody, control and visitation of the child.

By signing the required forms, the parent is transferring legal custody of the child to the state or other governmental or independent child placement agency. Once the court terminates the parent-child relationship, the consent of the parent is no longer required for the child's adoption.

If you have questions about voluntary termination of a parent's legal rights, Allan Brandon Tise, Attorney at Law, is ready to offer advice on the procedure for drafting a petition to file in the court.

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