By Jedidiah McKeehan
How do I terminate my child’s father’s, as some would say “my baby daddy’s,” rights to see the child? I get asked this question fairly frequently. There may even be a good reason for why this question is asked. The father might be in prison, or may have gone years without attempting to see or support the child. However, the answer that I give is one that these people do not really want to hear.
You cannot legally terminate a parent’s (the mother or the father) parental rights unless there is someone willing to step in to those parental shoes being vacated. The court will not simply have a child lose a parent or “bastardize” a child without someone there to step into those shoes.
So, when I am asked if a parents’ rights can be terminated, I always ask them if they have someone who is willing to adopt their child (usually a step-parent) and step in as the new parent for the parent whose rights are being terminated.
Unfortunately, there is not usually a step-parent there to step in to that role. Therefore, no termination can occur and the conversation ends rights then and there.
However, say there is a step-parent willing to adopt the child. So yes, you have the potential for terminating the rights of a parent. The easiest way to do this is an agreed upon step-parent adoption. This means that a parent is voluntarily having their parental rights terminated.
The primary reason that a parent would agree to have their rights terminated is so they do not have to pay child support anymore. They will owe back child support for the period that they were a parent to the child, but they will no longer be required to financially support the child once their parental rights are terminated.
If a parent contests their parental rights being terminated then it has to be shown that they have failed in their parental duties. This is typically done by proving that the parent has not attempted to see the child or financially supported them for a period of 4 months or longer.
Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties. He works in many areas, including divorce, custody, criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, and estate planning. Visit attorney-knoxville.com for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.