A voluntary relinquishment of parental rights is a document that one parent signs giving up all parental rights to a child. The relinquishment is final and binding when signed, however a judge must accept it before it is permanent. Usually, parents cannot sign away their parental rights unless a parent is unfit and harmful to the children or there is another adult waiting to step in and adopt the child. Examples of unfitness or harm to children would include abuse to the children, abuse to others, or a major criminal record.
Once the relinquishment is accepted by the judge, the parent relinquishing rights no longer has rights or duties related to that child. The relinquishment may or may not erase any past debts on behalf of the child (such as back child support or back medical expenses owed to the custodial parent or state), but it does mean that the relinquishing parent will not owe future child support or other responsibilities. Once parental rights are relinquished, that parent no longer has any rights to visit the child or contact the child in any way. The custodial parent can make all decisions pertaining to the child without notifying the other parent.
The state has a vested interest in making sure that parents do not just opt out of being parents. One reason is that both parents owe a duty to support the children. If one parent uses state benefits (such as food stamps or Medicaid) to support the children, the state will take steps to make sure the other parent is paying child support. The state also wants two parents in case one parent dies, becomes incapacitated or is otherwise unable to care for the child.
Please contact us if you are interested in finding out more about voluntary relinquishment of parental rights.