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Can I sign over or terminate my parental rights?

Often I have people call me to discuss “signing over their parental rights” in hopes that this will either 1) end the drama that happens when they visit with their child or 2) end their obligation to pay child support. This is a difficult question to answer in a general fashion, but this article will give some perspective and some thought to the question of “can I terminate my parental rights”?

Often, it is the case that the father is the non-custodial parent and he is having trouble getting the mother to comply with the visitation order. She won’t let him take the child when it is his time to visit with her or she is late for drop off/pick up. She gives him a hard time about where he is taking the child, with whom he is taking the child (ie a new significant other) or his behavior when he has the child. Since the custodial parent has the child living in her home (custodial parent), the father (non-custodial parent) feels trapped and that he has no way to fix this issue. This is often where I hear that the father wants to give up the rights to see the child because it is too difficult to deal with the mother.

Frankly, this issue can be fixed. The solution in this case is not to sign over or terminate parental rights. The solution is to ask the court for a visitation order that suits the child and/or ask the court to enforce that order if the mother does not allow him to see the child in accordance with its terms. Though enforcement can sometimes take time or several court appearances, it is worthwhile to pursue the order, or its enforcement, so that all parties begin to follow it.

When a party seeks to sign over or terminate their rights, they often make the mistaken assumption that they will also no longer have to pay child support. Since they do not see the child, they do not have to support the child financially. Generally speaking, this is wrong. Also, the court will not simply let you sign over or terminate your rights to support simply because you don’t want to pay child support. The child is born into this world with two biological parents and each parent is obligated to support that child financially.

There are some circumstances where the court would consider a termination of parental rights (and thus, the obligation to pay child support). Perhaps the best example is when the father seeks to terminate his rights and the mother’s new spouse seeks to adopt the child. In this circumstance, if the court grants the parties’ their wishes, the child remains supported by two parents. Thus, so long as the arrangement is in the best interest of the child, the court will likely allow these requests.

If you have specific concerns or you want to discuss specific details of your case, feel free to give us a call. We are here to consult with you and give us the best advice for accomplishing your goals.

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