Understanding Termination of Parental Rights vs. Relinquishment Legal Parental Rights

Giving up parental rights is an emotional topic and should be fully understood before beginning the process. The termination of parental rights is allowed in every state, as well as the District of Columbia and all U.S. territories. A court must be involved in this process as it legally ends the relationship between the parent and child and the duty of child support ends. Once this relationship has been ended, the child may be placed for adoption so he or she has a stable, permanent family environment. The goal of this process is to meet the parenting needs of the child over the long term. This process may be voluntary or involuntary. The court will not allow signing over parent rights for the purpose of avoiding payment of child support.

Relinquishment of parental rights typically refers to voluntarily giving up parental rights. The voluntary relinquishment must be approved by both parents and involves the signing over of parental rights so the child may be placed for adoption. Involuntary termination occurs only when it has been determined that the parent is unfit or the severing of this relationship is in the best interest of the child. Clear and convincing evidence must be shown when the involuntary termination of parental rights is being undertaken. Most assume that the termination only involves the biological parents, but this is not the case. Those who are defined as legal parents may also lose their rights to a child. The legal father is the man who was married to the mother when the child was conceived or born. The legal mother is the female who adopted a child and a man who adopts a child is also considered to be the legal father.

Many things may lead to the giving up of parental rights or the termination of these rights. Chronic or severe abuse and/or neglect is one situation where this may occur. Abandonment or failure to maintain contact with the child is another. If one or both parents suffer from a long-term mental illness or deficiency or is incapacitated for the long term due to alcohol or drug dependency, rights may be terminated. The relinquishment of parental rights may occur as a result of abuse or neglect of another child or children in the home and the involuntary termination of parental rights of one child may lead to this occurring with all children in the home.

Before the rights of a parent may be terminated, reasonable efforts must be taken to prevent the child from being removed from the home. The goal of any out-of-home placement should always be reunification of the family. If a child has been in foster care for a period defined by law, the termination process may begin and abandoned infants may be placed for adoption immediately. Parental rights may also be terminated if one parent kills the other parent or a child in the home or is involved in the death of the other parent or child. Any felony assault resulting in serious bodily injury to a child or the other parent is grounds for termination.

Exceptions may be made to this. One exception is when a relative is caring for a child. If there is a risk of termination of these rights, legal help should be sought immediately.