Parents choose to voluntarily relinquish any rights over the children for many reasons. No matter what their reasoning may be, they all must fill out a form most often referred to as a "termination of parental rights." These legal forms vary from one state to another. Some states require parents to fill out a petition to the court, while others initiate the process with a voluntary consent form to give up parental rights.
Petition to Terminate
Some states require a court hearing to relinquish parental rights after a court hearing. The petition to terminate is filled out and filed with the court clerk. It is like a formal request to the court to allow the parent to give up parental rights. Once it is filed, the petition leads to a hearing where the parents present their case to give up parental rights. An emergency hearing may come first to decide where the child will live until a permanent home is found. Once the judge grants the parent’s request, a disposition hearing follows to determine the child’s future.
Response to Petition
A petition to relinquish parental rights filed by someone other than the parents may require an answer. This form allows the parents to state their relationship to the child and reasons why they want to relinquish parental rights. Every allegation made by the petition in the original filing must be answered in this form. For example, if the petitioner alleges abuse, the parent answering must explain why this allegation is false or admit that it is true. This petition must be notarized.
Adoptions require that the birth parents relinquish their parental rights either at their own death or by signing a form that waives the rights. In adoptions, a court appearance isn’t needed, just a notarized, signed waiver form. The parent giving up consent needs to check the appropriate statement waiving her parental rights to the child. When a stepparent wants to adopt a stepchild, the noncustodial parent must sign a consent form.
Giving up parental rights does not exonerate parents owing child support. Petitioning the courts does not clear parents of child abuse, neglect or abandonment charges. Once the parental rights are gone, the parent must petition the court to reverse the action, a step that is extremely difficult to accomplish.