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Is an attorney necessary to voluntarily terminate parental rights?

UPDATED: February 8, 2020

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When a father consents to the idea of giving up his parental rights to a child, he and the child's mother need to visit a lawyer in order to ensure that all paperwork is correctly handled and that the termination of rights is legally valid. The details of parental rights termination vary, sometimes greatly, by state, and it's absolutely essential that a lawyer assist you during this process.

 The Process of Terminating Parental Rights

While the details will be dictated by state law, the general process of terminating parental rights goes as follows.

  • The father must sign the termination document, which should be drawn up by a lawyer to ensure all legal angles are covered. The signature generally needs to be notarized and witnessed, and then the papers must be filed with the court.
  • The court will likely examine the case and decide whether or not the termination is appropriate. In most cases, a termination of parental rights is only allowed for the purpose of someone else adopting the child. However, if the father is consenting and/ or wants to take the action, and there is a good reason for it, a judge may be willing to go ahead with it. A lawyer can also help you with your reasoning for the court in this type of situation.

Why You Need a Lawyer

Having a lawyer is essential in cases where a father gives up his parental rights because most states require that the father provide informed consent in order to give up those rights. If he and the mother have legal representation, steps can be taken to ensure he does not later argue that he was not fully informed. In other words, if he changes his mind and says he did not know what he was doing, there will be clear evidence that he had a lawyer and that the lawyer assisted him in understanding his rights and making an informed decision on how to proceed. 

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