How to terminate parental rights

Updated February 21, 2017

Parental rights may be terminated voluntarily or involuntarily. The rights that will be given up include the right to choose a child's religion, education, health care, visitation and custody rights. Here are the steps to terminate parental rights.

Look up the state law or statute that gives a natural parent the right to terminate their parental rights. The statute can be found in the State Code or on a state's legislative website. The exact laws vary depending on which state the child and parent reside in.

Have good cause. Good cause is a legal term meaning that you have a good reason for giving up your parental rights. Most states will consider terminating parental rights to facilitate an adoption as a good cause. There are very few other good reasons to give up a child. A state statute may have a list of what the courts have considered good cause in the past. Stay within the good cause guidelines.

Draw up a written consent document that relinquishes your rights. Call a family law attorney for help drafting the document or visit the clerk at your local county courthouse for preprinted documents and guidelines.

Notify authorities of abandonment. If a person abandons a child and does not intend to retrieve the child, parental rights can be terminated.

Failure to provide child support. If someone fails to support a child, he or she will lose their parental rights. This includes failing to provide food, shelter and clothing for a child. This is only in the most extreme cases and varies by state.

Report unfit parents. Unfit parents are those parents that cannot take care of themselves, let alone a child. The parent may be involved in drug abuse or other illegal activities. A parent may also have severe mental disabilities that render the parent unfit, hindering him or her from caring for a child.

Sound the alarm on child abuse. If a child is harmed by a parent, a child is removed from the home. The parent is given time to rehabilitate himself and then an evaluation is done. If the parent repeatedly harms the child, a child can be permanently removed from the home and parental rights terminated.


This is not legal advice and will affect the rest of your life. Consult a lawyer.

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