Parental rights may be terminated voluntarily with the written consent of a parent who for good cause
desires termination. Even if both parents are in agreement that parental rights should be terminated,
the Court must address whether the termination is occurring for good cause. "Good cause" is not
defined in the statute, but has been applied in some cases.
In one case, a Supreme Court examined the purpose and intent of the statute to determine when good
cause could be found. The purpose of the statute is:
First, to enable the judicial system to legally remove a child from a destructive or unhealthy home
environment without the consent of the natural parents
Second, to facilitate adoption procedures by providing a means by which existing parental rights
may be voluntarily terminated
In light of these purposes, the Courts of Appeals have consistently ruled that a voluntary termination of
parental rights for reasons other than to facilitate adoption works a substantial detrimental effect on a
child, who will be forced to look solely to his custodial parent to meet all of his needs.
The effect is that District Court Judges are extremely reluctant to terminate parent's rights voluntarily
and certainly not where the termination is not agreed upon by the custodial parent. It is also clear under
the law that a non-custodial parent cannot claim that the termination of parental rights is being
requested in order to remove the child from a destructive or unhealthy home environment, since the
petitioning party is not custodial parent.
The likelihood of obtaining an order terminating parental rights is also reduced if the custodial parent is
provided public assistance through the county. Obviously, the county does not want to financially
support children when a parent who has that obligation is available. Even a non-custodial parent's lack
of contact with a child and belief that the parent could not care for a child financially may insufficient to
provide "good cause" for a voluntary termination of parental rights.
Some courts do not allow you "to sign over your rights." Meaning, some type of agreement between you
and the other parent is meaningless to the court or to the child support enforcement agency.
In most cases signing over physical parental rights does not relieve the parent of their financial
obligation unless the other parent agrees. If however, the rights are being relinquished so the child can
be adopted, the court will dismiss child support obligations.
Courts are concerned with the child's welfare and nothing else. Whatever is in the best interest of the
child, whether it is emotionally, physically, financially, is what will decide how the judge rules.
It is important to recognize that the reasons that may give rise to an involuntary termination of
parental rights may not apply to a parent who seeks to voluntary termination his/her parental rights.
They certainly would not apply if the custodial parent did not agree to the termination. For example,
the abandonment provision only applies to involuntary terminations of parental rights --not voluntary