Can you voluntarily terminate your parental rights?

voluntary termination of parental rights

Termination of parental rights: Can you informally agree to give up your rights and have this be legally binding? Here’s an answer to this commonly asked question.

Question: Two years ago I had a child with a former boyfriend. We no longer have any kind of relationship and he and I have come to an informal verbal understanding that I will not sue for child support and he will not seek custody. Is this kind of voluntary termination agreement legal?

Answer: The first thing to understand is that a person generally cannot voluntarily surrender their parental rights in New Jersey unless it is for the purposes of adoption. If you have a new partner and that partner is functioning as a parent to your child and wishes to adopt your child, then yes, your ex would be able to go to court to voluntarily give up his parental rights. [In other situations, the court may involuntarily terminate parental rights based on evidence that the parent failed in his or her duties.]

So, unless there is an adoption about to happen, you will need to think carefully about the legal rights and responsibilities involved in your situation, including your child’s rights. For example, you cannot legally waive child support because that benefit and right technically belong to your child — not you. Under your current informal arrangement, you are actually cutting off a source of financial support for your child that has no replacement.

This has repercussions. If you apply for any form of state welfare assistance, for example, the state may look for the father and bring an application for him to support the child. Also, what if the father receives a large inheritance or gets a promotion? Your child has a legal right to benefit from their parent’s elevated economic status.

One path that you may want to explore right now is putting in place a child custody agreement that gives you sole legal and physical custody. If your child’s other parent is adamant about not having parenting time at this time, this language can simply be included in the agreement. You can go to court to settle this matter or come to an agreement out of court (in writing). Whether or not you seek child support at this time is a matter you can talk over with a family law attorney.

As your lives continue to grow and change, different solutions may present themselves. As long as you are putting the best interests of your child first, then you can have reassurance that the solution you choose is the right one.

Have questions about child custody? Child support? Or understanding when termination of parental rights is appropriate? Get the answers you need by speaking with one of our family law specialists. Schedule your free attorney consultation today. Safeguard your future by calling us at 888-888-0919, or please click the button below. 

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