How to Terminate a Father's Parental Rights

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Although courts do not like terminating a father's parental rights, they'll do so when the circumstances make it necessary. Rights can be terminated in cases of abuse and neglect, or when the father has chosen not to see his children or has refused to pay child support for an extended period. Laws vary by state, so review your state’s statutes to determine what is available to you and what avenues to take to terminate a father’s parental rights.

Step 1

Review the laws in your state.
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Review the laws for your state and determine what grounds you may be able to cite to terminate the father’s rights. These may include abandonment, if he has failed to see the child or pay child support for at least six months; unfit parenting or harm to the child; or criminal convictions.

Step 2

Child support check.
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Ask the father whether he will voluntarily relinquish his rights. Especially in cases of abandonment, the father may be willing to voluntarily give up his rights to free himself of a child support obligation.

Step 3

File a petition with the court.
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File a petition with the court seeking termination of parental rights. You use basically the same form whether you are seeking voluntary or involuntary termination. In the petition, detail the grounds for termination and attach an affidavit from the father if he has agreed to terminate his rights. You will have to serve the father with the petition and request a hearing before a judge.

Step 4

Attend the hearing
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Attend the hearing. Judges are generally hesitant to terminate parental rights unless there is another individual willing to adopt the child. However, this is not necessarily the case in abuse or neglect cases, where the child’s safety is a concern.

Step 5

f the judge agrees with your petition, she will sign an order.
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Obtain an order granting the termination of parental rights. If the judge agrees with your petition, she will sign such an order. This may occur right after the hearing, or later on, after the judge takes time to weigh all the evidence.


  • Have adequate evidence, whether it be in the form of documents or witnesses, to substantiate your claims.
  • Be sure to meet all notice requirements as set forth in your state's statutes. If all parties do not receive adequate notice, the order may later be set aside.
  • Dress appropriately for your hearing.



About the Author

Jamie Simpson is a researcher and journalist based in Indianapolis with more than 10 years of professional writing experience. She earned her B.S. in animal science from Purdue University and her Master of Public Affairs in public management from Indiana University. Simpson also works as a massage therapist and equine sports massage therapist.

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