gavel law

Terminating parental rights is a permanent decision that ends the legal relationship between parent and child. As such, courts are often very cautious about taking this step. Read on to learn more about the fundamentals of termination of parental rights and the intersection with other parts of family law, like child support. If you have encountered difficulties with either terminating parental rights or child support, don’t hesitate to call a York County child support attorney. We have worked with many difficult cases and have the experience to guide you through this.

Can You Sign Away Your Parental Rights?

Courts across the United States have very exacting requirements for terminating parental rights. Simply giving up or assigning custodial rights to someone else is not the same thing as terminating parental rights. It is possible to sign away custody rights but retain parental rights, as well as the legal responsibility to support and provide for the child.

Termination of parental rights can be either voluntary or involuntary.

Typically, voluntary termination of parental rights happens when a child is being put up for adoption. In some cases, the child may keep a connection to the parent, but this is highly dependent on the specific circumstances. Voluntary termination is often done in conjunction with an adoption agency and prospective adoptive parents, in which case the agency will most likely have its own guidelines and process in place.

Involuntary termination of your parental rights is the permanent severing of the legal parent-child relationship by a court. In Pennsylvania, this process begins when one parent or the Commonwealth itself files a petition to this effect. Given what it means for an outside entity to permanently terminate parental rights, and given the importance placed on a parent’s duty to support their child, Pennsylvania has a strict set of grounds to be met for approval of the termination, which (among others) include:

  • The parent’s attitude toward their parental rights: either a “sense of purpose” toward termination, or a failure to perform their duties for at least half a year.
  • The parent’s negligent or abusive failure to provide the child with necessary care, as well as their unwillingness to fix this
  • The parent’s conviction for criminal homicide and aggravated assault, whether accomplished or attempted
  • The child’s absence from the home for at least half a year, unchanged conditions at the home that led to the child leaving, such that termination of parental rights is in the best interest of the child

Effect of Terminating Parental Rights

After termination, the parent’s name is removed from the child’s birth certificate. The parent loses visitation and custody rights, while the child loses inheritance rights. Only a few states permit parents to reestablish parental rights after these have been terminated.

The severing of the legal relationship also involves ending the responsibility to pay child support. However, if the terminating parent has outstanding child support obligations, then it will be necessary to comply with these.