Parenthood is not always planned, and it does not always come at the right time in your life. Children need constant love, attention, and stability. Depending upon where you are in your life, you may not be in a position to provide a child with these basic needs.
In doing what’s best for your son or daughter, you might be considering whether to place him or her for adoption. Doing this means having to terminate your parental rights, which is rarely an easy decision.
Termination of parental rights is a legal term that means you are, in the eyes of the law, no longer the child’s parent. You have no more legal responsibility to care for your child, nor do you have any decision-making rights in any aspect of your child’s life. You are, for all intents and purposes, no longer a decision-maker in the child’s life.
Terminating your parental rights is such a weighty decision, parents considering taking this step receive counseling to be sure they are in the right frame of mind to make a clear decision, because once your rights are legally terminated, it can never be undone.
Reasons for terminating parental rights
When parents terminate their parental rights to their child, many times it revolves around the other parent’s desire to get married, and his or her partner wants to legally adopt your child as his or her own. Maybe you haven’t been present in your child’s life (voluntarily or involuntarily), whereas the person wanting to proceed with adoption has been very involved, and wants to obtain the same legal rights a biological parent would be entitled to receive.
A parent who is incarcerated also runs the risk of having his or her parental rights irrevocably terminated, and his or her children are then placed up for adoption. Because statistically, mothers retain custody more than fathers, more women lost their parental rights to spending time in prison than fathers.
Sometimes, a biological father may not even know that he has a child out there somewhere if the mother chose not to disclose that she was pregnant, or has given birth. There are cases where men are unaware that they had ever fathered a child until that child tracks him down and tells him, or the mother files an action for child support. In either case, the father may choose to terminate his parental rights for a multitude of reasons.
“I don’t want to pay” isn’t always a good enough reason
If you discover you have a child about whom you did not know, you may feel resentful that you’re being asked to pay for his or her upbringing. After all, you have never been involved in the child’s life, and it’s possible that neither of you wish to begin a relationship now. However, the court may not allow you to give up your rights just to avoid payment of child support.
As a matter of public policy, the court has an interest in seeing that the responsibility of raising a child does not fall onto the shoulders of taxpayers who provide public assistance. If the court believes a parent – mother or father – has the ability to financially contribute to his or her child’s care, that parent may not be able to terminate his or her parental rights.
Effects of termination of parental rights on your child
While terminating your parental rights ends your legal obligation to that child, consider the ramifications. Is it better for your child? Will he or she have a better chance at a better life with a different family? Or will it harm your child more to lose his or her extended family members, such as cousins or grandparents? You have a lot to think about when making this choice.
Terminating your parental rights is a serious decision that has the potential to alter the lives of not only yourself, but your child, and others in his or her life. If you are at a crossroads between choosing to terminate your parental rights, you need trusted advice to make your decision. The attorneys at McCabe Russell, P.A. are waiting to help guide you through your options. To meet with one of our family law attorneys in our Bethesda office, call 443-917-3347 or reach out to us through our contact form. We also maintain offices in Rockville, Fulton, and Columbia.