Termination Of Parental Rights In Virginia


Posted on November 14th, 2012, by Livesay & Myers, P.C. in Family Law. 28 comments

Parental RightsOne of the most frequently asked questions of Virginia family law attorneys is how a parent’s parental rights can be terminated. Often times a custodial parent wants to terminate the rights of the noncustodial parent because (s)he is not paying support, has not seen the child in years, and or is not a positive influence in the child’s life. Other times the noncustodial parent wants to terminate their own parental rights in an effort to avoid paying child support. Termination of parental rights is extremely serious. If a parent’s rights are terminated (s)he no longer has any parental responsibility, including financial, and can at no point in the future legally ask to be involved in the child’s life.

In Virginia, the parental rights of one parent can be terminated only if there is a third party, such as a step-parent, willing to step into that parent’s role. Many single parents struggle with hearing this information because they feel as though their hands are tied. They question the logic of a law that allows a parent who is not financially supporting his or her child and is not a good influence to continue to be involved in the child’s life.

The honest answer is that everything comes down to money and finances. Without a third party to legally assume the parental role, the Court would be creating a greater chance of the child becoming an orphan and possibly a ward of the state. If that happens, then the Commonwealth of Virginia would become responsible for financially supporting that child. The Commonwealth does not want to terminate the rights of any parent, unless there is another person to step into that (financial) role, because the Commonwealth wants, if needed, to seek financial support from that parent. Once this is explained, most parents understand the Commonwealth’s position. However, most of these parents state that if something happened to them, a family member would petition the court for custody to avoid the child becoming a ward of the state, which is likely true.

Involuntary termination of parental rights is possible in the rare cases where it is proved by clear and convincing evidence (i) that a parent has been guilty of abuse or neglect that endangered the child’s life and health, and (ii) that it is not reasonably likely that the problem can be resolved so that the child can continue to spend time with both parents. If you believe that your child is being abuse and neglected, you should contact the Department of Social Services and promptly speak with an attorney.

If you are a custodial parent with a third party, such as a new spouse, interested in adopting your child(ren), be sure to read Stepparent Adoption In Virginia.

The family law attorneys at Livesay & Myers, P.C. have years of experience with stepparent adoptions and others cases involving termination of parental rights. From our five convenient office locations, we represent clients across Northern Virginia. Contact us to schedule a consultation today.

See also: Can A Separation Agreement Terminate Parental Rights In Virginia?

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Livesay & Myers, P.C. is a law firm with offices in Fairfax, Manassas, Leesburg and Fredericksburg, Virginia.



28 responses to “Termination Of Parental Rights In Virginia”

  1. Danielle says:

    so as a non custodial parent, if I wanted to sign my parental rights to my mother, I could do that? And she could assume custody of the child?

    • Stephanie Sauer says:

      @Danielle, allowing a grandparent to adopt when one of the biological parents maintains his or her parental rights is not permitted. Under Virginia law, a grandparent may be granted custody and/or visitation. A grandparent may even adopt a grandchild but both biological parents’ parental rights would be terminated before the process is completed. Contact us to schedule a consultation to discuss your options, if you live anywhere in Northern Virginia.

  2. Jennifer Mullins says:

    So if my son’s biological father hasn’t been involved in his life for over 7 years (the child is 8 now) and has failed to support him financially, can I have his rights terminated? I am engaged to be married to a man that is willing to adopt the child. I have no idea where the biological father is and have no way of contacting him.

  3. Kay says:

    Must the person willing to adopt the child be a spouse of the custodial parent? What if my friend or boyfriend is willing to adopt the child?

  4. Stephanie Sauer says:

    @Jennifer, after you are married, your husband and you could decide to move forward with a Stepparent Adoption. If you do not know where the child’s father is located then we would proceed with Notice of Publication to provide him with the statutorily required notice. The Notice of Publication is published in a newspaper in the last known area of residence. I would be happy to provide you more information about the process (just call or email us for a consultation). Best of luck.

  5. Stephanie Sauer says:

    @Kay, a boyfriend or a friend cannot adopt a child. It must be a new spouse if you wish to retain your parental rights.

  6. Amber says:

    My child’s father has not seen her in years and does not provide financial support. Could I terminate his rights and let my ex-husband adopt her whom I have a child with? Also my daughter was born there in Virginia and I have a custody paper from there, but now live in Arkansas (since Oct 2007), my state of residence (I was active duty there in VA). Would I need to contact a lawyer in VA or AR to file any petitions? Also the father lives and is a resident of North Carolina. Thank you

  7. michele says:

    If the non-custodial parent wants to terminate parental rights & the custodial parent agrees, but there is no third party, is it possible?

  8. Stephanie Sauer says:

    @Michele, even if the non-custodial parent wants to voluntarily terminate his or her parental rights, it cannot be done unless a third party is able to step into that parent role. The Virginia legislature wants to ensure that if something were to happen to the custodial parent then the child would not become a ward of the state. If the child becomes a ward of the state, then various departments within the Commonwealth can seek child support from the non-custodial biological parent.

    • lo says:

      So, if the biological father wants to give up his parental rights, he cannot unless the mother of the child has a spouse. What if the father wants to give his parental rights to the mother’s mom. Could that be possible? Because than the baby will have two custodial parents. Correct?

      • Unfortunately, the type of arrangement you are suggesting cannot be granted by the court. The maternal grandmother could certainly be granted legal and/or physical custody of the child but that would not terminate the biological father’s rights.

  9. Heather Chafatelli says:

    Can a birth mother and father sign over their parental right to a third party husband and wife. Without going through an adoption agency?

  10. @Heather Chafatelli, a birth mother and father don’t necessarily have to go through an adoption agency in order for their child to be adopted. Adoption agencies can be helpful for some birth and adoptive parents but they are not a requirement. One or more adoption attorneys can be retained and execute the adoption. Speaking with a knowledgeable adoption attorney can help and put everyone’s mind at ease.

  11. Juliean J. says:

    I’m currently expecting my 1st child and the father does not want any involvement. I feel it would be in the best interest in my child and it’s father to terminate all parental and financial obligations/rights as soon as the baby is born or before if possible.
    Is there a form/process for this?

    • @Juliean J., do you have a new spouse? If so, there are options. If not, then you cannot terminate his rights.

      • Juliean J. says:

        Ms. Sauer,
        Thank you for your prompt response. I’m currently expecting and there’s no new spouse at this moment (maybe in the future, but not now). Is there anything I can do or put in writing to terminate any of his rights?

        Juliean J.

        • @Julien J., at this time there is nothing that can be done. Entering into a contract to terminate a parent’s parental rights in that situation is not valid in Virginia.

  12. Kayla R says:

    Would it be possible for my son’s father to sign over his rights to my sister? He has never paid child support and hasn’t seen our son since he was a few months old (he is 4 now). He is currently in jail and more than willing to sign over his rights. He has proven to be a violent influence in our son’s life. Would my son have to be adopted before his father could sign over his rights?

    • @Kayla R, unless the father and you (the mother) sign over your rights to your sister, your sister cannot adopt your son. Your sister and you cannot be legal parents to your son. If both biological parents wanted to relinquish their parental rights then your sister could adopt. If your sister has a close relationship with the child she could petition for visitation. Although, if you two are getting along it may not be appropriate and I would speak with an attorney before taking that step.

  13. Chelsea says:

    Ms Sauer,
    Good morning. my question is what would the circumstances be if i would like my daughter’s father to just sign over his rights without a third party (for now)? He has not been in the picture for quite some time, last i had heard he had been arrested and had 5-6 charges against him related to drugs and a weapons charge. He is in jail now but I do not know where or for how long and i would like to get this done as soon as possible. After reading your article though i felt like needing a third party would be a hiccup in getting this process done soon, or would/could this be considered in the abuse and neglect of endangering a child?

    • @Chelsea, unfortunately, you cannot terminate his rights even though he is incarcerated. However, it may provide you some comfort to know that no court will ever require that you take your children to the jail to visit his or her father.

      • Chelsea says:

        Thank you for your prompt answer but I was more asking if I would be able to acquire some paperwork to take to him to sign over his rights while he is in jail or would i still need a third party to do so? Sorry i did not make myself more clear before, but i appreciate your input very much!

        • @Chelsea, I can step in and answer that. Unfortunately, Virginia does not allow what you’re describing. There are not really any papers that you could have the father sign now to sign over or terminate his parental rights. His rights can only be terminated when you have a third party– that’s usually going to be a new spouse for you– to take on both the father’s rights and responsibilities. In these situations, you don’t really terminate the father’s parental rights and responsibilities so much as you transfer them to another.
          I hope that answers your question. Sorry I couldn’t provide better news!

  14. Michelle says:

    i’m pregnant with twins and i also have a 1 yr old by the same man, now that i’m going to put him on child support for our 1 year old and then the twins once they’re born. he says to his new girlfriend that he wants to sign away his right for the twins not our 1yr old, because he doesnt want to pay child support for 3 kids, my question is can he do that?

    • @Michelle, he could give up this rights to the twins if you had a new spouse that wanted to adopt the children. If that is not an option then he cannot give up his rights to any of the three children and will be required to pay child support for all three of them.

  15. Jennifer says:

    Ms. Sauer:

    If both parents sign over their rights and the child becomes a ward of the state, can a grandparent from another state obtain custody or adopt the child? What about a child with special needs?

    • @Jennifer, yes, if both parents relinquish their rights to the Commonwealth of Virginia then the Department of Social Services will look to immediate and close family members as viable options for permanent foster care and adoption. However, it is not necessary to relinquish your rights to the state. If both parents and the grandparents are in agreement then a close family adoption can be executed without the child becoming a ward of the state.

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