As a Pittsburgh attorney, I occasionally encounter situations where one parent asks whether he or she can give up his or her parental rights to their child. There are a number of reasons that an attorney gets this question. Sometimes a parent is frustrated because he or she has not been able to see their child for a long time and has simply given up. Sometimes, the custodial parent asks if the absentee parent would be willing to give up his or rights. Sometimes, unfortunately, a parent would rather give up his or her parental rights than pay child support. So what happens when a parent no longer wants to retain his or her parental rights?
In Pennsylvania, the process of terminating a parent's rights is complex. First, for public policy reasons, the Court can not terminate a parent's rights without another prospective parent stepping into his or her shoes. It would not be in the best interests of the children of this state to permit parents to wantonly terminate their rights at a whim and to leave a child with no parents at all. Thus, a parent can not simply relinquish his or her parental rights without another person stepping in for them. This situation typically arises when one parent remarries and the new spouse is willing to then adopt the child as his or her own once the termination is completed.
The above situation assumes that the parent whose rights are being terminated is a willing participant. If the natural parent is willing and if there is another capable adult prepared to step in to his or her shoes, then the process can be fairly smooth. However, if the parent does not wish for his or her rights to be terminated, a long and difficult hearing process typically follows. Often, these termination proceedings occur only after the family becomes involved with state agencies such as Children and Youth Services. After agency involvement, if a parent has proven incapable of adequately caring for the child or children in question, only then are termination proceedings initiated.
Therefore, according to Pennsylvania law, a parent can not simply relinquish his or her rights to a child without making sure that the child has adoptive parents to step in and provide care. The Court's paramount concern is the health, safety and well-being of the child. Thus, if a parent is willing to voluntarily terminate his or her rights, a capable adult must be willing to adopt. Even if a parent is involuntarily stripped of his or her parental rights, the Court only does so after providing the parent with every opportunity to rehabilitate himself or herself and then locating an adequate adoptive family.
Contact our Pittsburgh law office, Gusty A.E. Sunseri & Associates, if you have questions or need assistance with custody or parental rights.