Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights

Voluntary termination of parental rights is a case when biological parents complete the required paperwork or ask the judge to terminate their parental rights. Because they want the child to have both parents' privileges, they will release only if there is "good cause" to approve the request. Courts are particularly cautious in these situations because they do not want to terminate a parent's financial obligation to support the child. For more legal help, use the free tool below.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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Voluntary termination of the parental rights of children is only given if there is “good cause” and convincing evidence that it is in the best interests of the children. “Good cause” varies from case to case. Both parties must consent. Avoiding the financial responsibility of child support payments or trying to rid yourself of the other parent is never a “good cause.” Once granted, your rights in a parent-child relationship are gone forever. Speak with an attorney before proceeding.

Parental rights termination is the voluntary or involuntary revocation of legal rights to children. Voluntary termination of parental rights of children is a difficult legal process except under certain circumstances. This is because children are generally considered to have a right to a parental relationship and, particularly, a right to receive financial support and care from both the biological father and mother. However, every state has a statute that permits the termination of the existing parent-child relationship either voluntarily or involuntarily. Involuntary termination of parental rights usually stems from misconduct by one parent. Surprisingly, voluntary termination of parental rights tends to be even more difficult to accomplish than involuntary termination.

Keep reading to find out what happens when a parent terminates their rights. If you need further legal assistance, just enter your ZIP code below.

What are the requirements for consideration of voluntary termination of parental rights?

How hard is it to terminate parental rights?

Most state laws will require the consent of both the custodial parent and the individual whose parental rights are to be terminated. A qualified family law attorney can assist the parties in drafting a consent agreement before the proceedings. Once voluntary termination of parental rights papers are filed, the court may appoint an amicus attorney, or a “friend of the court,” to represent the child’s interest. The agreement of both parents or the biological parent not terminating their rights that the termination of parental rights is in the best interest of the child will not guarantee the termination, and persuasive evidence must be presented to the judge. The courts must also make a finding of “good cause” for the termination.

Before a court will grant a voluntary termination request, they want to know why the parent is requesting termination. Because they want the child to have the privileges of both parents, they will terminate only if there is “good cause” to approve the request. Two common factors that often lead to requests to terminate parental rights include:

  • (1) A parent who wishes to terminate his/her child support obligations for the children; and
  • (2) a parent who desires to have the other parent completely out of their life

Neither of these reasons is generally sufficient alone to constitute “good cause” and will not typically be approved by the judge. Courts are particularly cautious in these situations because they do not want to terminate a parent’s financial obligation for payment of child support. Such termination may mean that the remaining custodial parent will need public assistance to support the minor child. In essence, the court will not punish a child when parents are trying to avoid their financial or emotional responsibilities.

Most statutes do not specifically define “good cause”, but grounds for termination to facilitate an adoption is typically viewed as a “good cause.” Courts are reluctant to terminate parental rights where there is no one ready to adopt the child and assume legal responsibility for financial support.

Where someone, such as a step-parent, wishes to adopt the child, the termination agreement will often be approved because it includes the prospect of someone who loves and wishes to support and care for the child replacing a parent who places the child for adoption and no longer wishes to have a parental connection to a child. In these types of cases, the adoptive parent may need to go through certain steps just as they would for any other adoption.

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What are the consequences of voluntary termination of rights?

When a court approves the termination of parental rights, the parent-child relationship is completely extinguished and all the rights and responsibilities of parenthood are terminated. This means the ex-parent no longer has an obligation to provide care or financial support for the children. They also forfeit any rights to visitation or to have input regarding the child’s education, religion, place of residence, or other child-rearing decisions as they are no longer the legal parent. If you’re considering this, it’s always best to consult with a child custody lawyer to make sure you understand all the relevant factors.

Generally, a person whose parental rights have been terminated also loses child custody or visitation rights with the child. If the voluntary termination occurred through a state child welfare agency, some states do provide for limited post-termination access to the child by the former parent. The family code of each state governs the rules and procedures for termination and post-termination access if any.

To understand how the laws of your state apply to your situation and how to win a termination of parental rights case, contact a qualified family law attorney in your area.

Can A Child Be Placed In Foster Care After the Process?

If a child does not have legally responsible parents or guardians after the termination of parental rights, the court will typically place the child in foster care. Before pursuing such drastic action and placing the child in foster care, the state must file a petition under the federal Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA).

This type of situation does not generally happen due to voluntary termination of parental rights. In the past, there have been incidents of parents terminating parental responsibility of children under safe haven laws. Many states have adjusted their laws based on the response. State agencies may petition if:

  • The child has been in foster care for 15 of the last 22 months
  • The court has determined the child is an abandoned infant
  • The parent committed murder or voluntary manslaughter of another of his or her children
  • The parent was otherwise involved in the murder or voluntary manslaughter
  • The parent committed a felony assault that resulted in serious bodily injury to the child

Of course, if a child is in the foster care system for an extended period due to sexual abuse or other abuse, drug use, alcohol abuse, mental illness, etc., a parent may relinquish their rights and allow their child to be adopted. Some states may encourage them to do so. Even in these cases, the state and biological parents have to follow certain protocol.

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