Terminating Parental Rights

By Sarah Knapp

Child custody, visitation and support disputes can be unpleasant and, if parents cannot overcome their differences, can be harmful to the children caught in the middle. Sometimes, in an act of desperation, one parent considers whether it would just be better to terminate his or her own parental rights or the other parent's rights.

Unfortunately it is not that easy. The only method under Virginia Law in which one parent can voluntarily terminate his or her rights to a child while the other parent retains his or her rights is through a step-parent adoption. This of course requires that the parent who is retaining his or her rights, has a spouse who is willing to adopt the child and be responsible for the support and wellbeing of that child. In this scenario, the step-parent legally steps into the shoes of the biological parent.

Absent a step-parent who is willing and able to adopt the child, there is no other way for a parent to give up their parental rights completely to the other parent. The reason for this is that the Commonwealth of Virginia wants to ensure that children have two parents obligated to support and care for them. Should there be only one parent, the child is more likely to require state services whether through welfare programs or the foster care system should something happen to the remaining parent.

Terminating another's parental rights against his or her wishes can only be accomplished in rare cases of abuse and/or neglect after a long legal process. However, the involuntary termination of parental rights cannot be pursued by individuals. Meaning one parent cannot bring such a suit against the other. These cases can only be initiated by the Department of Social Services after an investigation and court finding that there has been abuse or neglect by a parent and that the problems are not reasonably likely to be resolved.

However, there are many ways to resolve custody, visitation and support disputes without terminating an individual's parental rights. Whether it is through collaboration, meditation, or litigation, the attorney's at ShounBach will work with you to achieve your goals and arrive at the best possible outcome for your child.

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