• Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental Rights

Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental Rights and What it Means

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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By |2018-01-18T15:46:06-07:00September 11th, 2017|Adoption, Family Law|10 Comments

About the Author:

Sandra M. McCarthy, founder of A People’s Choice Inc., has worked exclusively in the legal field since 1976. She served as the 2004-2005 President of CALDA (California Association of Legal Document Assistants). She obtained a Paralegal Certificate from the University of California, Santa Barbara. During her career in the legal field, she has worked as a freelance paralegal, law office manager and paralegal studies teacher, and has co-authored numerous legal publications and written hundreds of self-help legal articles. As a registered Legal Document Assistant, Sandy is dedicated to providing affordable, low-cost, self-help document preparation services for California consumers in all 58 counties.


  1. Ramiro Chacon February 13, 2019 at 10:15 pm - Reply

    I was married 10 years then divorced, child was 8 at the time. I found out the child is fathered by some one else. Mother admits to having an affair to the police and pinning the child on me I have police report. I have been forced to pay child support since the separation 2011. The child turn 16, I have not contact since the separation. It’s been 8 years of no contact.

    • Sandy McCarthy February 14, 2019 at 8:33 pm - Reply

      This is a complicated issue. There are statutes and variety of parameters that would come into play to address this matter. I would recommend you speak to an attorney.

  2. Maddison February 11, 2019 at 7:40 pm - Reply

    I have not seen my daughter in 4 years but now I have a child support hearing coming up. I lost custody of the child 4years ago and have made zero contact since. Can I voluntarily sign over my rights so I can cut ties and move forward in life?

    • Sandy McCarthy February 14, 2019 at 8:34 pm - Reply

      Typically courts will not let a parent sign over parental rights unless another parent is assuming those responsibilities.

  3. lyndsay February 7, 2019 at 10:36 am - Reply

    my sister is in jail at this time, and my brother-in-law is unstable and an alcoholic. he has mentioned that he is unable/incapable of taking care of my 5 year old nephew. my brother in law is willing to voluntarily sign over custody to my mother (the grandmother of the child). Is it possible for the grandmother to obtain custody of the child due to both parents being unable to care for the child? would the Childs mother need to sign over her rights as well?

    • Sandy McCarthy February 9, 2019 at 3:18 pm - Reply

      Yes it is possible through a court guardianship proceeding. We can help you with that paperwork if you would like.

  4. Ashley January 29, 2019 at 1:43 am - Reply

    Parent A does not see or talk to his children because Parent B will not allow it. Both parents live in separate states. Can Parent A voluntarily relinquish parental rights without Parent B’s approval?

    • Sandy McCarthy February 2, 2019 at 7:19 pm - Reply

      I am not aware of a way a parent can voluntarily relinquish parental rights short of an adoption proceeding.

  5. Donald B Pike October 4, 2017 at 9:09 am - Reply

    This all happened 40 years ago. What if you signed a document that you were told was giving sole custody to the mother when in fact it was signing over your parental rights? Nothing can change that now it happened back in 1977-1978 I signed it there was never a court date to see a judge or advocate so my name does not appear on his birth certificate. So it was like I was never his farther I’ve regreted signing that paper ever since have also been trying for 38 years to find the mother and my son also it was established that we were the same blood type back then there was no DNA. Just blood types

    • Sandy McCarthy October 4, 2017 at 9:30 am - Reply

      Donald – Our office is not an attorney’s office and as a result we cannot give you legal advice. I am not sure what options you would have to try and locate your son but we do wish you the best of luck in the endeavor.

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