Voluntary and Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights

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 How Can I Terminate My Parental Rights?

Parental rights refer to a parent’s legal authority over their child, including making important decisions and taking actions on their behalf. Examples include custody, decision-making regarding education, religion, medical treatment, visitation, and entering contracts for the child. A parent can lose some or all of these rights when they’re terminated, which may happen for various reasons, such as neglect or abuse.

To voluntarily relinquish parental rights, a parent must file a petition with the court, which will consider factors like the child’s best interests.


Adoption is a legal process where a person assumes the rights and responsibilities of a parent for a child who is not biologically related to them. When a parent decides to put their child up for adoption, they voluntarily relinquish their parental rights, allowing the adoptive parents to step in and take on the child’s legal guardians role.

This process severs the legal relationship between the biological parents and the child, and a new relationship is formed with the adoptive parents.


Samantha is a single mother struggling to provide for her newborn child, Emily, both financially and emotionally. After careful consideration, Samantha decides that the best course of action for Emily’s well-being is to put her up for adoption. She contacts an adoption agency to help her through the process.

The agency connects Samantha with a loving couple, John and Sarah, looking to adopt a child. Samantha gets to know John and Sarah and feels confident they will provide Emily with a loving and nurturing home. Samantha works with her attorney and the adoption agency to complete the necessary paperwork and, in doing so, voluntarily relinquishes her parental rights to Emily.

Once the adoption is finalized, John and Sarah become Emily’s legal parents, and they assume all the rights and responsibilities that come with parenthood. Having given up her parental rights, Samantha no longer has any legal authority or obligations towards Emily.

However, depending on the adoption agreement, Samantha may still have some form of contact or communication with Emily through an open adoption arrangement where she receives updates on Emily’s well-being and may even have occasional visits.

Why Would Parental Rights Be Terminated?

Courts are hesitant to terminate parental rights, as they aim to keep families together whenever possible. However, when a child’s well-being is at risk, termination of parental rights may become necessary to protect the child.

For example, if a parent is consistently neglecting their child’s basic needs, such as not providing sufficient food, clothing, or shelter, the court may decide that it’s in the best interest of the child to terminate the parent’s rights. Similarly, if a parent abandons their child without trying to maintain contact or provide support, the court might also terminate their parental rights.

In cases of sexual assault or abuse, the court will act swiftly to protect the child from further harm by terminating the parental rights of the offending parent. The child’s safety is the top priority, and the court will consider the severity of the abuse and the potential for future harm in making its decision.

If CPS finds that a child is not adjusting well in a particular household, they may give the parents time to address and resolve the issue. If the parents fail to make the necessary changes, CPS may remove the child from the home and file a petition to terminate the parental rights of the parents involved.


Tom and Mary are foster parents to 10-year-old Jessica. CPS receives reports of neglect and conducts an investigation, discovering that Jessica is consistently left unsupervised and often goes without meals. CPS issues a warning to Tom and Mary, giving them a deadline to make necessary improvements in their care for Jessica.

Despite the warning, Tom and Mary continue to neglect Jessica’s needs, showing no improvement in their parenting. As a result, CPS files a petition with the court to terminate their parental rights. The court reviews the evidence and finds that termination of parental rights is in the best interest of Jessica, as Tom and Mary have shown no willingness or ability to provide the care she requires.

With their parental rights terminated, Tom and Mary are no longer Jessica’s legal guardians. CPS then works to find a more suitable and nurturing home for Jessica, prioritizing her safety and well-being.

What Else Should I Know About Terminating Parental Rights?

When parental rights are terminated, a parent loses their authority to make decisions for the child and is no longer responsible for future child support. However, biological parents can’t visit or communicate with a child who’s been adopted or placed in foster care unless a contractual agreement is in place.

What Happens If I Want to Voluntarily End My Parental Rights?

When a parent petitions the court for voluntary termination, they ask the court to end their parental rights. If the court approves, the parent-child relationship is dissolved, meaning the parent loses all rights and obligations to the child. Courts take this request seriously and will evaluate factors like the child’s best interests and the parent’s reasons for termination.

Can I File for the Termination of Another Person’s Parental Rights?

Filing a petition to terminate someone else’s parental rights is possible but taken seriously by the court. The petitioner must gather evidence and submit proof to demonstrate why another person’s rights should be terminated. An emergency petition to remove a child may be filed in extreme cases.

Under What Circumstances Will a Court Terminate Parental Rights Against My Wishes?

In some situations, a court may terminate parental rights involuntarily, such as when a state agency submits evidence that a child is in danger of serious harm. Factors considered include abandonment, neglect, abuse, mental illness or drug addiction, failure to attend termination hearings, and lack of an existing parent-child relationship.

What Happens After I Terminate My Parental Rights? Can I Have My Parental Rights Reinstated?

After termination, the child may be placed in foster care or with a legal guardian. In adoption cases, the biological parent’s rights are transferred to the adoptive parents. While it’s difficult to reinstate parental rights, it’s possible in cases where the child hasn’t been adopted or if it’s in their best interest. A family lawyer can help navigate this process.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Terminating Parental Rights?

If you need assistance reinstating or terminating parental rights, consider hiring a local child custody lawyer. They can explain your rights, help you regain rights if they’ve been terminated, and provide legal representation in court or related proceedings.

LegalMatch is an online platform that can help you find a qualified family law attorney who can assist you with terminating parental rights or any other family law matters. By answering a few questions about your legal issue, you will be matched with attorneys with experience in that law area.

Once you have reviewed the attorney’s profile and background, you can decide whether to schedule a consultation with them. During the consultation, you can discuss the specifics of your case and receive legal advice on how to proceed.

Use LegalMatch to find a knowledgeable and experienced attorney who can guide you through the legal process and help you achieve the best possible outcome.


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