Being a parent is a tough job. Depending on who you talk to, it may very well be the toughest gig around. As rewarding, fulfilling, and worthwhile as it can be, it’s also demanding, draining, and not for everyone. Some people take to parenthood naturally, while others grit their teeth and power through out of obligation. But for those who just don’t get the hang of it, have zero interest, or are otherwise incapable and want to relinquish these duties, is it possible to sign away parental rights in Oregon?
The short answer to this question is: no. Neither parent can terminate their custodial duties and obligations and just walk away. Once you bring a child into this world, unless you give it up for adoption, it’s your duty and you remain responsible. You can find caveats and workarounds, but in a general sense, that’s the way the law works.
Many factors may push a person towards wanting to sign away parental rights. Issues with addiction, mental illness, or abuse all often play a role. Maybe your ex has made it clear you’re no longer welcome in your child’s life. If a child is old enough, he or she may also be able to communicate this desire. Whatever the circumstances, this is an intense situation and not a decision to be made lightly.
Parental Rights Can Be Taken Away By The State
While neither you nor your spouse can sign away parental rights on your own accord, the state can step in and terminate them. In the case that you are deemed unfit to care for a child or even be a part of his or her life, the court may intercede in the situation. This usually happens after lengthy court proceedings.
A Child Can Be Adopted
In one situation, it is possible to willingly sign away parental rights. If you and your spouse divorce or separate, and she marries someone else, her new husband can legally adopt your child. In Oregon, this is the only circumstance where a father can sign away parental rights voluntarily.
Once such an adoption is finalized, all rights and obligations are ceded to the new father. You will no longer be on the hook for child support, child custody, visitation, or any other commitments or requirements. On the other hand, you also give up any legal right to be involved in the child’s life at any point in the future.
That said, if there are preexisting responsibilities, like unpaid child support, those remain on your plate. Such debts are enforceable and collectible and are not conveyed to the adoptive parent. If you owe money, you’re still obligated to deliver that amount.
You Can Step Away
Adoption is the only way for a parent to voluntarily sign away parental rights and obligations. As family courts generally place the wellbeing of any minor children above other concerns, any decisions will be based on what is best for the child or children in question. If a child could potentially lose financial support, you most likely won’t be able to legally sever your connection, even in the case of adoption.
You can, however, effectively remove yourself from your child’s life if that’s the choice you want to make. In this situation, you must continue to pay any child support that has been ordered. Though you may be compelled to participate financially, you can forgo any visitation and other involvement in your child’s life in this manner without actually having to sign away parental rights.
This strategy also leaves the door open for a relationship down the road. Whatever your current issues, whatever the reasons that drove you to want to sign away parental rights in the first place, they may not always be such a barrier between you and your children. Perhaps eventually there may be hope for reconciliation. Maybe not, but relationships change and evolve over time, and you may be able to fix whatever problems exist at some point.
This is not an easy situation. No doubt the surrounding circumstances must be extreme to make you want to sign away parental rights. However, unless very specific requirements are met, this is not an option. Though, as stated above, there are ways to accomplish this if it’s truly what’s best for your life and your children.
If you have questions about child custody cases, divorce, child support, or other family law issues, feel free to contact Goldberg Jones at our Portland office.