Legal forms can be found in all states that deal with the issue of releasing parental rights. However, the final decision on releasing parental rights is made by the court--even in cases where both parents are in agreement. Releasing parental rights is a serious matter for the court and is not something that is easily granted.
Termination of Parental Rights
When a parent's rights are terminated, the parent no longer has any legal right to affect the care, education or general upbringing of the child. The parent is also relieved of any obligation to support the child. Terminating parental rights can only be done according to the laws and legal process established in the state where the child resides. Parental rights can be released voluntarily with court approval or terminated involuntarily by court order.
Voluntary vs. Involuntary Termination
Although the specific grounds for terminating parental rights differ among the states, in general all states recognize two types of termination: voluntary and involuntary. The cases in which a parent's rights are involuntarily terminated involve extreme circumstances of abuse or neglect that cause severe physical or emotional harm to the child. The courts will typically search for alternative means of addressing the situation, such as ordering counseling and parenting classes, before resorting to termination of parental rights. The cases in which voluntary termination is sought by one of the child's parents usually involves a stepparent adoption. A court will most likely approval such a voluntary termination so long as there is an involved stepparent who agrees to fulfill the parent's obligations for the child.
Legal Forms and Process
The best source of information on the process and legal forms available for release or termination of parental rights is the state court where the child resides. This information can be found through the court's website or from the clerk's office where documents are filed for the court. Courts that do not have specific forms available, such as those in Maricopa County, Arizona, usually have information on where to find appropriate forms.
Divorce and difficult parenting situations between ex-spouses and lovers do not provide sufficient grounds for releasing or terminating parental rights. Even in sad situations where a father simply wants to be relieved of support obligations or the mother wants to completely remove her ex from her life, a court is unlikely to severe the child’s relationship with his father. In California, this is true despite an agreement between the mother and father to release his parental rights. Every child has a right to a parent-child relationship, and the court will not approve an agreement to terminate it unless there is a good cause to do so, other than the parents’ agreement.
Avoid websites that charge fees for forms or information about releasing or terminating parental rights. The National Center for State Courts provides a webpage with information for each state and the District of Columbia regarding the statutes and grounds for terminating parental rights (see Resources). Find the website for your local state court, or go to the clerk's office for the court, for specific information on where to obtain forms and filing procedures regarding release or termination of parental rights.