Parents may voluntarily relinquish parental rights in California. Voluntary relinquishment of parental rights, however, can only be made under specific legal circumstances. Obviously parents choose to relinquish their parental rights for a variety of reasons including divorce, adoption, legal guardianship, or foster care. The voluntary relinquishment of parental rights must be granted in a court order. An order will terminate rights such as inheritance, custody and visitation, child support, and any liability for the child’s misconduct.

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How to Voluntarily Relinquish Parental Rights in California

Voluntary relinquishment of parental rights takes place when a parent independently decides that he/she would like to terminate his/her parental rights to his/her child. When a parent relinquishes his/her parental rights, they can no longer make any legal decisions about their child’s safety and welfare. This includes choosing a child’s religious practices, where she/he will attend school, or the type of health care he/she will receive. The relinquishment of parental rights is permanent. A voluntary relinquishment can only be finalized if another person is assuming the role of the parent who is relinquishing their rights.

Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental Rights Through Family Court Adoption Proceedings

In family court adoption proceedings, voluntary relinquishment of parental rights my be done by both parents when relinquishing a child to an independent adoption agency.

Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental Rights Through Family Court Stepparent or Domestic Partner Adoption Proceedings

Voluntary relinquishment of parental rights can take place during a stepparent or domestic partner adoption. A non-custodial parent can voluntarily terminate his/her parental rights to allow the stepparent (custodial parent’s new spouse) the opportunity to adopt the child. The court must find that the parent willfully abandoned the child.

Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights

Parental rights can be voluntarily or involuntarily terminated by court action. Parental rights are involuntarily terminated if the court deems a parent is unfit to provide the proper care to his/her child. California courts rarely terminate both parent’s parental rights especially if one parent would be left with the responsibility of raising the child.

Parental rights can be terminated as follows:

Terminating Parental Rights Through Juvenile Dependency Court

A child becomes a ward of the Juvenile Dependency Court when someone reports the mistreatment of a child. This is not a voluntary relinquishment of parental rights but rather an involuntarily termination of a parent’s rights by a court if it finds that the parent(s) have abused or neglected the child. Parental rights may also be involuntarily terminated if the court finds that a parent’s mental or physical capacity prevents him/her for properly caring for his/her child. Once parental rights are terminated, the child may be adopted.

Parental rights can be terminated if the court finds that the parent-child relationship is not in the child’s best interest.

Parental rights can only be terminated in California by court order. Parental Rights cannot be terminated by a parent who simply wants to avoid paying child support and is not being adopted by another parent. In most California Superior Courts, there are no court forms available to terminate parental rights. A pleading must be drafted and clearly request termination of parental rights based on one or more of the following:

Contact A People’s Choice for more information about the voluntary relinquishment of parental rights in California. We can help you prepare and file the documents you need to terminate parental rights. You can reach us at 800-747-2780.

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