What Happens When You Sign Over Your Parental Rights?

As challenging and stressful as divorces can be, child custody cases take the stakes to a whole new level. Every parent wants to do the best thing for their children, but doing the right thing can take many different forms. One topic some parents ask our family law attorneys at Oxendine Law about is “signing over” their parental rights, known legally as terminating parental rights. If you’re curious whether this may be the best option for your family, below is a glimpse into what it means and how your legal standing would change.

What It Means to “Sign Over” or Terminate Your Parental Rights

In a legal sense, signing over your parental rights removes your legal claim to your children. You will not have the right to make any decisions regarding their lives such as medical care and education. You are also not legally entitled to have visitation with or custody of your children. This doesn’t mean that you are barred from having a relationship with them, only that you cannot legally force their other parent to allow you to see your kids.

Child Support After Signing Over Parental Rights

If you are successful in legally terminating your parental rights, then your child support obligation will also be terminated. Terminating your parental rights terminates all of your rights and relationships with the child, as well as all of your responsibilities to the child. This process legally makes it as though the parent/child relationship never existed.

Purpose of Signing Over Parental Rights

When a parent signs over their parental rights voluntarily, it is primarily done for the purpose of allowing someone else to adopt the child. For instance, perhaps you’re a father and your ex has primary custody of your child. Your ex is now married and her husband is the primary father figure to your child. You may be able to terminate your parental rights in order to pave the way for your ex’s husband to adopt your child. In the same way, if two parents have a child and want to place their child for adoption, they will both need to sign away their parental rights.

Can I “Sign Over” or Terminate My Parental Rights Even if the Other Parent Doesn’t Agree?

Signing over your parental rights isn’t a decision you can unilaterally make. First, the decision has to be agreed upon by both parents. Even if the parents agree, the decision has to be approved by the Court. These requests are rarely accepted by the Court, and generally only occur in the specific instance of a step-parent adoption. As a general rule, the Court will not allow one parent to terminate their rights unless there is another parent ready to step into their shoes and act as a second parent to the child.

Other Factors That Change When You Sign Over Your Rights

When a parent considers signing away their rights to their child, their top questions are usually about adoption and child support. However, there are other facts you should know about as well.

One common concern is inheritance. If you sign away from parental rights to a child and then you pass away, the child will still inherit your property unless you have a will that specifies otherwise. This changes if someone else adopts the child. In that case, the child will no longer automatically inherit your property.

It is also important to know that if you sign away your parental rights, you will no longer be notified of any legal proceedings regarding your child. For example, if someone else petitions to adopt your child, the court will not notify you about the hearing.

Signing away your parental rights may not be something you had ever expected to do when your child was first born. However, there are situations in which it truly is the best thing you can do for your child. If you believe that this may be the best course of action, the next step is to contact our family law attorneys Jarrod Oxendine and Christine Palmer. We’ll be able to speak to you in depth about the pros and cons, in addition to taking you through the process step by step.