Parental rights can be waived voluntarily, generally to facilitate adoption, or involuntarily, in cases where a parent is found to be unqualified or not acting for the good of the child. The process is complicated and can be extremely stressful and time consuming. However, with patience and a solid understanding of the legal system, you can successfully waive parental rights.
Method 1 of 3: Give up rights voluntarily
Step 1. Know the consequences of waiving your rights
Before you decide to voluntarily waive parental rights, understand the consequences of this decision. Giving up parental rights has serious legal repercussions and is not a decision to be taken lightly.
- All rights and responsibilities regarding your paternity will end once you renounce them. If you offer your rights voluntarily, you will not have any input regarding the education, religion, upbringing and placement of the child and any other factor regarding the child. Nor will you be legally guaranteed any kind of custody or visitation.
- If you want the other parent to relinquish their rights to your child, understand that they will have no further obligation to support the child financially or otherwise. You cannot ask the other parent for maintenance or visitation rights once they waive their rights.
Step 2. Talk to a family law attorney
Courts will not grant voluntary termination of rights unless parents can objectively prove that it is in the best interest of the child. Judges are generally reluctant to terminate parental rights, even when they are voluntarily waived. Consult with a family law attorney to work out the best way to argue for termination of parental rights.
- Many people want to give up their parental rights simply because they don't want to financially support the child. This is very rarely considered a strong reason for terminating parental rights. Do not submit a petition on these grounds as it is likely to be denied.
- You also cannot give up rights simply because your life is difficult and you don't have time for a child. Remember: the main purpose of the court is to act for the good of the child. Most judges will think, unless it is absolutely impossible, that you should strive to incorporate your child into your life despite the difficulties.
- A family law attorney can talk to you about reasons for wanting to waive your rights. He can help you write a strong statement that illustrates why giving up your rights is for the good of the child. This may mean admitting a fault on your part. If you don't think you are a suitable parent, the court will want to know why and you may have to reveal uncomfortable personal information that you feel disqualifies you from your parental rights.
Step 3. File a petition
You will need to file a petition with the local court requesting a hearing to determine parental rights. Requests of this nature can be quite lengthy, so be sure to fill it out completely.
- The laws and the exact forms for filing a petition vary depending on where you live. However, for the most part, you will need to provide basic information such as your name, date of birth, social security number (or similar), and other identifying information that you would include on most legal documents and tax forms.
- Where to file also varies. Some places will allow you to file it at a local courthouse or county clerk's office while others require that the document be brought to a local Child Protective Service office. You can find out where to file the petition by talking to your lawyer or by looking at the website of the municipality or regional government.
Step 4. Go to court
A hearing will be held before a judge who will determine whether or not your rights will be legally terminated. You may be asked to give a statement to the court or judge. Talk to your attorney about whether or not giving such a statement would be beneficial to you and, if so, what you should say. Dress appropriately for the hearing, in professional dress, and be respectful of the judge. Don't try to "prove" your unfit nature as a parent by appearing in court disheveled and misbehaving. This will not necessarily help your argument and could result in legal problems, such as being held for contempt.
Step 5. Prepare to have your request denied
Understand that judges and courts are highly unlikely to terminate parental rights. The consensus in the legal community is that ending parental rights is very rarely in the best interest of the child. If your request is denied, talk to your attorney about how to appeal the decision. The requirements for appeals vary by location.
Method 2 of 3: involuntarily waive rights
Step 1. Know the circumstances under which parental rights can be waived
If you are trying to unintentionally terminate someone else's parental rights, this can only be done under certain circumstances. While these vary depending on where you live, most states in the US, for example, will grant termination if the following circumstances are met:
- Abandonment, which means not having contact with the child for more than 6 months without an excuse
- Neglect, which means that basic needs such as food, shelter, water and health are not met
- Failing to support the child financially, which means that alimony payments or other forms of financial support were not made
- Unheard of harm, meaning the child was seriously injured under the care of a parent
- Serious criminal conviction, which means that certain crimes, usually felonies involving harm to a child, can result in termination of parental rights
Step 2. File a termination petition
Just like to voluntarily waive the rights, you have to file a petition for the involuntary removal of the rights. Where and how to file varies depending on where you live.
- You can file a petition through your local Child Protective Services office. You can also file a petition independently if you think the other parent is endangering your child and you want them to waive their rights.
- You will need basic information about yourself and the parent whose rights you are ending. This information includes the name, address, place of birth, social security number (or similar) and other details that you would normally provide in tax or legal documents.
Step 3. Consult with a family law attorney
You should consult with a family law attorney throughout the entire process. Giving up parental rights can be difficult, and if they are inadvertently given up, legal battles can become stressful and unpleasant. A family law attorney can protect you from personal attacks in court and help you gather the necessary evidence to prove that the other parent is unfit.
Step 4. Gather evidence and witnesses
Once your petition is approved, a hearing will be scheduled. In the preamble to the hearing, gather evidence to make your case against the other parent.
- You must prove that one of the termination reasons mentioned above occurred. If you are going to petition on grounds of abandonment, for example, you must be able to prove that the other parent has not had contact with the child for 6 months. If you are filing on felony grounds, you can legally obtain police reports and court hearings as evidence for your arguments.
- Certain motives are more difficult to prove than others, and witness testimony may help. If the other parent endangered the child through recreational drug use but was never formally charged with a crime, you could bring in a witness who saw the parent drinking heavily or taking pills in the child's presence.
- It can be difficult to maintain objectivity in custody cases. Remember: your emotional reaction is not a reason to end custody. You have to prove that this is for the good of the child. Your attorney can help you determine what type of evidence will or will not help your arguments.
Step 5. Attend all necessary hearings
There may be many hearings, and even lawsuits, when dealing with involuntary termination of custody. You will have to attend all hearings and behave in a professional, calm and collected manner. Custody hearings can last for months, even years, and the process can be costly and exhausting. Be sure to seek professional support from your attorney and emotional support from friends and family during this time.
Step 6. Prepare for setbacks
Courts are generally very reluctant to terminate parental rights. You will likely encounter a lot of resistance, especially if the rights are to be terminated against the will of the other parent. You can prepare for setbacks by doing the following:
- Be aware that you could be personally attacked in court. Your motives will be called into question, and the other parent's attorney could use past mistakes against you. Review all of your past behavior carefully to try to prepare yourself emotionally for the impact of a rigorous questioning.
- Thoroughly review the appeals process where you live. There is a good chance that the rights will not be finalized at the first hearing, so make sure you are prepared to appeal the decision. The appeals process varies by location, so talk to your attorney about how to appeal and how to improve your chances of success in a second trial or hearing.
Method 3 of 3: Waive Rights for Adoption Purposes
Step 1. Learn about the rules regarding foster care
Rules about foster care vary depending on where you live. When, where, and whether, as a foster parent, you can terminate a person's parental rights depends on a number of factors.
- In some places, birth parents may voluntarily give up their parental rights should their child find a loving home. Such requests are much more likely to be accepted than normal voluntary waivers since the child in question has a safe and alternative environment away from his biological parents.
- You can file a petition to voluntarily terminate the rights of birth parents in most places. However, the process is complicated and you must ensure that the child's safety is at risk. The same reasons must be met, such as abandonment and putting the child at risk, to involuntarily terminate the rights of one of the parents.
- Parental rights are sometimes terminated if the child is placed in foster care. However, this is up to the judge and the likelihood of this happening varies depending on the location. Talk to an attorney if you are considering foster care so that you can understand your rights.
Step 2. Voluntarily waive your rights
If you are putting your child up for adoption, you can choose to voluntarily waive your rights. While the process for doing so is a bit lengthy, if your child is in the care of responsible adoptive parents, your petition will most likely be approved by a judge. If you are going to place a child for adoption at birth, many places have a waiting period before you can voluntarily give up your rights. This is to make sure you are confident in your decision and prepared for the legal consequences of giving up parental rights.
Step 3. Have someone's parental rights involuntarily terminated
In case you are trying to adopt a child and the birth parents' rights are an obstacle, you can have the parental rights involuntarily terminated. This generally occurs when a new spouse wants to adopt a child from a previous marriage or relationship. As in any other involuntary termination case, you must prove that the biological father is unfit. The process is quite similar to the method outlined above for involuntarily ending parental rights.