Termination of parental rights (TPR) is the voluntary or involuntary cutting of the parent-child relationship between you and your children. When this happens, your parental duties are also severed; you no longer have a responsibility to take care of the children, pay for their medical care or provide support. While this may be an attractive option to you, you should understand all the consequences of pursuing a voluntary termination of your rights before doing it.
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Whether Or Not You Can Do It
While some TPRs are involuntary, most states do allow a voluntary termination under some circumstances. This will require the cooperation of your local Department of Social Services or the other parent; the other side asks for termination, and you either sign a consent or simply don't respond to the TPR petition. While the law varies from state to state, you will not be allowed to unilaterally give up your rights. Since ending parental rights also ends parental responsibility, courts won't approve an uncontested TPR without some kind of justification and the assurance that taking you completely out of the children's lives is in their best interests. Even parents who haven't seen their children in years can be obligated to pay child support.
Effect On Child Support And Arrears
Although a TPR generally does cut off your obligation to pay regular child support, it won't wipe out your arrears. This is because until your rights are terminated, you're still a parent and still responsible to share in the duty of support. Once a TPR goes through, the court will order you to pay on the arrears at whatever rate you'd have had to pay regular support had your rights not been terminated. If you have a sizeable arrears balance, you could still be paying child support for years after the TPR.
Finality And Adoption
When a TPR is granted, it becomes as if you died; the children no longer have you as a parent. Since you have no rights, the other parent is free to deny you contact with the children even if he or she promised to still let you have visitation if you didn't resist the proceeding. Another effect of a TPR is that once it's done, your consent to an adoption is no longer required. Your ex's new husband or wife, or a pair of complete strangers, can now adopt your child.
Although a TPR doesn't automatically cut off the child's right to inherit from you, it does cut off your right to inherit from the child. If the other parent dies before your child, the child can expect to inherit a substantial portion of that parent's estate; if the child later dies before you, you can expect to inherit a substantial portion, as well. If your parental rights have been terminated, however, you get nothing.