Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Post termination of parental rights questions

I've been getting several questions from people that have either (1) had their parental rights terminated years ago or (2) want to pursue back child support against the parent who had their rights terminated.

Here is the bottom line -- once a person's parental rights are terminated that person's rights are permanetly severed.  That person is no longer has any sort of legal relationship to that child.  That person is "dead" to the child.  That person has no more right to that child than any stranger. 

People need to take termination very seriously before they sign the paperwork.  They need to understand what they are doing.

Often people sign the paperwork because they want their ex-spouse to go away.  The person wants the harrassment from their ex-spouse to stop.  They are tired of their ex-spouse from telling them they are a "bad parent".  So they sign the paperwork.  The parent does not understand the full implication of what they are signing.

Several years later, the terminated parent remarries and has more children.  Then the parent wants the new children to get to know their older half-siblings.  This is never going to happen.  Why?  Because the parent has no legal relationship with the older half-sibilings.  The younger children ask about the older children and they don't understand why their older half-siblings are not visiting.  Now the parent feels guilty.  What are the options?  Wait until the older children are 18 and hope that the older children want to come back into their lives. 

I urge people to think a long time before signing termination paperwork.  This is not something that can be revoked later. 

Remember that any verbal promises are not enforceable.  Also, often verbal promises are made to entice you to sign the paperwork and these promises will be forgotten as soon as the judge signs the final paperwork! 

On the other side of the coin, the other parent needs to understand that once the paperwork is signed terminating the parental rights then you can never go back and ask for more money!  So if the parent wins the lottery or inherits money -- you won't see a penny!  In the future, if you need money, this biological parent is under no moral or legal obligation to give you a penny! 

Again, I urge parents to think about the future before signing these termination papers. 

Fast forward into the future.  People lose good jobs and money gets tight.  The healthy kids gets sick and has mega medical bills.  Suddenly, the former deadbeat has a great job and has accumulated a nice nest-egg and lots of adult "toys".  Now he is living high!  Now the terminated parent gets threatened with child support!  Sorry!  Too late!  The terminated parent has NO obligation to provide any money to his former child.  No judge can order this guy to give one penny!  It does not matter if this terminated parent hit the lottery and is now worth billions!  There is no legal obligation.  You cannot go back into court and ask a judge to order the terminated parent to pay child support.  This person is no longer obligated to pay any money.  This man is a "stranger' to this child. 

So be careful what you wish for!  Think long and hard.  Once the papers are signed by the Judge they are final.  They are written in stone.  They cannot be changed.  It does not matter if circumstances change - for good or bad. 

Plus, once the step-dad adopts the kid -- he is the NEW DADDY for all purposes!  If the couple later divorces, this is the "father" that will visit the kids and pay child support!  He is the legal father of the children!  In this case, blood is NOT thicker than water!  (In a later divorce, the terminated father's rights, do not matter at all!)

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