Signing Over Parental Rights

Understanding Termination of Parental Rights and Child Support

Court considerations in termination of parental rights cases

Verywell / Cindy Chung 

Signing over, or terminating, parental rights should never be taken lightly. A custodial parent may seek termination of parental rights in situations where their child no longer has a relationship with the non-custodial parent, or when the child is believed to be in imminent danger. In such cases, the court will typically order a hearing.


Parents seeking to terminate the other parents' parental rights should know up front that in situations where the non-custodial parent voluntarily agrees to terminate their parental rights (in other words, signing over parental rights voluntarily), child support obligations may cease.

This means that the non-custodial parent would no longer be responsible for past unpaid or future child support payments, depending on the laws in your particular state. Legal counsel can help you confirm whether or not this would be true in your particular case.

Termination of parental rights is different from not having physical custody of a child. After termination, the former parent has no right to visit the child or participate in any decisions regarding the child's care. And it is very rare for parental rights to be reinstated after they have been terminated. Many states will not allow a former parent to request reinstatement at all.

Court Considerations

Family court judges take the termination of parental rights very seriously. They do not typically consider termination unless they believe doing so would benefit the child (even if both parents request and agree to the termination). In the face of termination requests, the court carefully considers the following factors:

  • Communication efforts: The court generally considers the non-custodial parents' past efforts to have a relationship with the child.
  • Child support payments: The court also looks to whether child support was provided in the past and/or is being provided in the present.
  • The best interests of the child: "Best interests" refers to what is considered best for the child's overall well-being, including care for their safety and basic needs, education, and stability.
  • Abandonment: The court will review whether one parent previously abandoned the other during pregnancy or abandoned the child after they were born.
  • Safety: The courts also give careful consideration to whether the non-custodial parent's behavior in the past placed the child in danger.

Anticipating Court Decisions

Parents on both sides of a termination request are often anxious, and understandably so, to predict or anticipate the court's decision.

It's important to remember, though, that the court will focus on the best interests of the child when considering the termination of either parents' parental rights.

This often means maintaining as much consistency in the child's life as possible. However, it's not possible to predict the outcomes in every case. 

It's true that the courts generally prefer not to terminate parental rights, particularly if they believe the possibility of improved relations between the parent and child, and/or between both parents, exists.

Unless a child is in a situation that is clearly dangerous—or the non-custodial parent voluntarily requests signing over parental rights, and someone is waiting to immediately adopt the child—the courts generally prefer to avoid terminating a biological parent's rights.

Instead, most courts will attempt to accommodate a parent's needs and wishes, to the furthest extent necessary. In some cases, this means offering supervised visitations in lieu of termination and/or requiring the parent to participate in a series of parenting classes.

Courts tend to only consider parental termination as an extreme last resort.

A Word From Verywell

Termination of parental rights and all related proceedings should never be taken lightly. In situations where child support payments are the driving force behind a non-custodial parent's desire to terminate their own parental rights, they should first consider trying to modify the child support payments prior to considering a complete release of parental rights.

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3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Family Law Self Help Center. Overview of terminating parental rights. 2021.

  2. Child Welfare Information Gateway. Grounds for Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights. 2017.

  3. Nesmith A. Factors influencing the regularity of parental visits with children in foster care. Child Adolesc Soc Work J. 2015;32:219-228. doi:10.1007/s10560-014-0360-6