A parent’s parental rights are inherent, but they can be terminated voluntarily or involuntarily by court order. The conditions under which a parent can voluntarily surrender his or her parental rights are extremely limited. Surrendering one’s parental rights means agreeing to end the legal relationship with one’s child. After that point, you may still have a child support obligation, but you will not have any other remaining rights or obligations regarding your child.
Typically, a parent may voluntarily surrender his or her parental rights in one of two ways. A parent may make a general surrender, which allows the DCP&P to find an adoptive home for the child or an identified surrender, wherein a specific person is identified and named as the adoptive parent. If you make an identified surrender and the adoption is not completed, the surrender will be vacated, but the DCP&P may ask you to make a general surrender. Note that surrendering your parental rights will not have a bearing on the parental rights of your child’s other parent.
You cannot simply voluntarily surrender your parental rights to end your parental responsibilities. If you choose to surrender your rights voluntarily, The DCP&P is required to provide you with counseling to make sure you are making a sound decision that is in your child’s best interests. After you’ve made your decision, both the DCP&P and the court will need to approve your surrender for it to become legal. The conditions under which the court and DCP&P will accept a voluntary surrender are limited, but the legal standard that must be met is whether the surrender is in the best interests of the child. In cases where reunification with the child’s parents is not desirable, a parent may be permitted to voluntary surrender his or her rights so that the child can be adopted. Because a permanent placement for the child is the end goal of all child welfare proceedings, a parent’s decision to terminate his or her parental rights is a critical part of the case. Without a voluntary surrender, the court can still terminate the parent’s rights if it is in the best interests of the child, and it often is when reunification is not possible.
If you do not think you can continue to care for your child, surrendering your parental rights might not be your only option. This is a serious decision that you should make until you speak with an experienced child welfare attorney. A knowledgeable attorney can help you understand what effects surrendering your rights will have, the conditions under which you can make such a decision, and what option may be in your child’s best interests. And, if surrendering your parental rights is the best option, an attorney can help you navigate the ensuing proceedings while protecting your best interests.