How to Terminate Parental Rights in Virginia

How to Terminate Parental Rights in Virginia

Because child custody, visitation, and support disputes can be difficult for parents and children, some parents desire to terminate the other parent’s rights to alleviate these burdens. Sometimes, a parent may seek to terminate their own rights to avoid paying child support. But is this possible in Virginia? Termination of parental rights is available under the limited options of step-parent adoption or involuntary termination, which cannot be requested by a parent but must be initiated by the Department of Social Services. 

Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights 

Although parental rights can be terminated under Virginia law, it isn’t easy. Specifically, the only way a parent can voluntarily terminate their rights to their child is through a step-parent adoption. This requires that the spouse of the parent retaining their rights is willing to adopt the child and be fully responsible for the child’s support, care, and well-being as if they were the child’s biological parent. 

Absent a step-parent willing and able to adopt the child, there is no other way for a parent to give up their parental rights to the other parent. Why? Virginia wants to ensure the child has two parents to financially support and care for them. If the child only had one legal parent because the other parent’s rights were terminated, that child may require state services, such as foster care or welfare, if the remaining parent predeceased the child.  

Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights 

Terminating someone’s parental rights against their wishes can only be accomplished in cases of abuse and neglect after a lengthy legal process. However, one parent cannot petition to have the other parent’s rights terminated. Under Virginia law, the Department of Social Services may seek to terminate an individual’s parental rights following an investigation. A court may order termination upon a finding that there has been abuse or neglect by a parent, which has resulted in substantial physical harm to the child, the child has been abandoned, or the parent has a mental or emotional illness that prevents them from caring for the child. 

Are There Any Alternatives to Terminating Parental Rights? 

Disagreements over custody are stressful and can be costly. Although termination of one parent’s rights is one means of gaining full custody, alternative means of resolving support and custody disputes are available. Whether an informal settlement or mediation is necessary, the attorneys at Buczek Carpenter PC can advise you of your options and advocate on your behalf to achieve the best possible outcome for you and your child. Our goal is to reach an amicable resolution cost-effectively without litigation. 

Contact a Family Lawyer Today 

At Buczek Carpenter PC, we understand that child custody, support, and visitation issues can take a toll on your family. If you need assistance with any family law matters, including support or custody in the aftermath of a divorce, call one of our skilled and knowledgeable attorneys today. We can help you and your family work through these issues. Contact us to get started with your case in a consultation with a family law attorney.