Understanding Termination of Parental Rights
Washington courts may agree to a termination of parental rights if the parents voluntarily relinquish their rights. In other cases, the court may find that it is in the child's best interest to terminate the child-parent relationship. Learn more about both circumstances.
Voluntarily Terminating Parental RightsIn many cases, a parent may voluntarily terminate his or her parental rights. He or she may choose to do so for a number of reasons. For example, parents unable to care for the child may agree to an adoption and therefore must relinquish parental rights to the adoptive parents. In other cases, a spouse of one parent may wish to adopt his or her stepchild. Some parents may be minors or disabled and therefore unable to care for the child. In these cases, other parties may be involved to represent the parents' interests. To do so, the parents must fill out the proper relinquishment forms. The forms should state that the termination of the parent's rights are in the child's best interests and that they consent to the relinquishment. There must be a witness present for the parent to relinquish his or her rights.
Involuntary Termination of Parental RightsIn cases where the biological parent fails to voluntarily relinquish parental rights to the child, the petitioner seeking the termination may ask the court to step in and terminate these rights. The court may agree if the continuation of the parent-child relationship is actually a detriment to the child. The court will always consider the child's best interests when making decisions affecting the child's wellbeing. As such, common grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights is that it is in the child's best interests. For example, this might be the case if a parent is abusive toward the child and another party wishes to adopt the child. In other cases, the petitioner may prove that the other parent did not perform his or her parental duties, demonstrating a lack of regard for these obligations. The petitioner must also prove that failing to terminate the parental rights is not within the child's best interests.
Consequences of Parental Rights TerminationUpon termination of parental rights, it immediately brings to an end any child support obligations or responsibilities toward the child. If there are any child support dues that are pending, the parent will have to discharge these. The termination also removes any right to child custody or visitation the parent had to the child.