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Termination of Parental Rights

Separation and divorce are never easy times for a couple in distress.  Couples may be disagreeing over money, their relationship and everything in between.  I often receive calls asking about the “termination of parental rights”.  What I learn after listening to the parent on the other end of the phone is that the parent is hoping to 1)  stop the fighting between the couple and 2) end the obligation to pay child support.  This article will address whether termination of parental rights is the correct solution during this emotional time in a couple’s life.

Often, it is the case that the parents are having issues communicating.  Somewhere along the way, the children started being dragged into the middle of the situation.  It may (or may not) have been the intention of the custodial parent to turn the children against the other parent but what happens is that the children overhear conversations, feel frustrations and more.  Living with the custodial parent, they are aware of more than we would like to think.  They start to feel like it is their job to defend the parent and begin to feel as if the other parent has “harmed” them as well.

The non-custodial parent may already be having trouble with custodial parent.  Maybe that parent won’t allow visitation etc.  Now enter the child who suddenly takes an intense dislike for Dad’s new girlfriend and refuses to visit him.  Or a the child who refuses to visit Mom because she “abandoned” the family.

Frankly, the worst time to consider a termination of parental rights is when emotions are high.   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 custodial parent does not abide by the visitation schedule and 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 details of your case, feel free to give us a call or contact us here. We are here to consult with you and give the best advice for accomplishing your goals.

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