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Lawrence D. Gorin
Lawrence D. Gorin, Family Law Attorney
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 1500
Experience:  30+ years family law experience. QDROs, UIFSA, UCCJEA expertise.
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Is is possible for a parent to sign over their parental rights

Customer Question

Is is possible for a parent to sign over their parental rights and to whom can they sign them over to?
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  Lawrence D. Gorin replied 5 years ago.
YOUR QUESTION:
Is is possible for a parent to sign over their parental rights and to whom can they sign them over to?

ANSWER:
     NO, it is not possible for a parent to sign over their parental rights (and thereby escape liability for parental obligations) UNLESS it is done in connection with an adoption proceeding in which some other person adopts your child and thereby takes on the rights and responsibilities of parenthood in your place.

     As a matter of public policy, persons who engage in sexual relations with one another and thereby create child become legally obligated to financially support the child. Having created the “problem,” the problem remains yours to deal with. The law does not allow you to simple walk away from the “problem” that you created.

     Also, when you talk about signing-over your parental rights, just who is it who you think will then pick up the tab in your place? If you can recruit some other person to take over your rights (and assume your responsibilities), such as would occur in connection with some other person adopting your child, that would be fine. But if you just give up rights and responsibilities without someone else stepping into your shoes, the burden and responsibilities would likely fall on the shoulders of the taxpayers (perhaps with the child ending up going on welfare). And the taxpayers do not want the financial burden of supporting the child that you created.

NOTE: I realize that this answer may not be entirely to your liking, and I regret being the bearer of information that you really don’t want to hear. But it would be unfair to you and unprofessional of me were I to provide you with anything less than truthful and honest information. I hope you understand.

================================
    If your question has been satisfactorily answered, please acknowledge by clicking the green “ACCEPT” button. Also, your FEEDBACK comments are requested and appreciated. And I thank you in advance.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I am the mother and I am not the one who wants to sign over my rights. I would like to have my daughters father sign his rights over. He already has a child he abandoned and never paid support or bothered to see for over 10 years. I just don't want to have to deal with the disappointment with my daughter. I realize I made the mistake in getting pregnant, however, I tried to have a child for 6 years in a marriage that ended because of stress etc. associated with fertility issues. I didn't think I coulkd get pregnant and I was not thinking clearly when I started dating the father of my child. I actually wish I never told him I was pregnant, afterall, he left town on another job offer before I realized I was pregnant.
Expert:  Lawrence D. Gorin replied 5 years ago.
YOUR FURTHER QUESTION:
I am the mother and I am not the one who wants to sign over my rights. I would like to have my daughters father sign his rights over.

FURTHER ANSWER:
     OK. Now I have a better understanding of your situation. But the underlying legal principle remains the same. To put it in blunt terms, the law frowns on bastardizing children. Consequently, the father of a child born to a woman whom he is not married may not "just sign his rights over to her." To do so would effectively leave the child with no father (and eliminate a potential source of child support).

     Parental rights of the biological father may, however, be given up if done as part of an adoption proceeding so that his parental rights, as well as parental obligations, will then be taken-over and assumed by some other man who then --- in the eyes of the law ---- becomes the child's father.

     A father can, as practical matter, give up his parental "rights" (the right to seek and possibly get custody of the child, or visitation or parenting time rights) by simply choosing to not seek or enforce such rights. Which sounds like what has occurred in your case.

     However, a father cannot simply "give-up" his parental "responsibilities" (the obligation for contributing to the financial support of the child). To do so would be a violation of the public policy that requires that parents support their child (so that the taxpaying public will not end up having to do so through public assistance and welfare programs). And this remains true even if you choose not to enforce the support obligation (and perhaps do not even really need the money).
     
     While some states (Texas, for one) allows for a private action between the parents for a voluntary termination of parents rights, most states, including Maryland, make no provision for such a proceeding.

NOTE: I realize that this answer may not be entirely to your liking, and I regret being the bearer of information that you really don’t want to hear. But it would be unfair to you and unprofessional of me were I to provide you with anything less than truthful and honest information. I hope you understand.

================================
    If your question has been satisfactorily answered, please acknowledge by clicking the green “ACCEPT” button. Also, your FEEDBACK comments are requested and appreciated. And I thank you in advance.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Thanks for eleaborating. I understand. One last question though, When she was born she was given his last name, because we were planning on getting married later. Is there a way to change that now that we did not get married ? Considering the abandonment, the possibility that they will not even be able to find him to serve the child custody summomns, I'm given full custoday and he does not exercise his visitation rights?

Expert:  Lawrence D. Gorin replied 5 years ago.
FURTHER ANSWER:
     Before going any further, there is a threshold question as to which I am a bit unclear. Specifically, given that you were unmarried at the time of the child’s birth, has the biological father’s “legal paternity” of the child been established by one of the authorized legal means provided by law for doing so?   Typically, this would have occurred, for example, if you and the father jointly signed a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP) form and filed it with your state’s Vital Records agency (often but erroneously thought of by many as meaning that “He signed the birth certificate), or if there was a lawsuit (either administrative of judicial) filed against him either by you or a child support enforcement agency seeking to declare his legal paternity of the child (and usually obtain a child support order as part of the same proceeding).

     Keep in mind that in the case of child born to an unmarried woman, until and unless legal paternity of the child has been established through one of the methods provided by law for doing so, the child’s biological father has no legal rights (and no legal responsibilities). He is, in the eyes of the law, a “non-entity,” the same as if he does not exist. So in your case, if legal paternity has never been lawfully and properly established, there is nothing that you should or need to now do. Just leave well-enough alone.   

     You said you have “filed for child support.” Again, there can be no child support order until and unless legal paternity has been previously established through one of the methods provided by law for doing so.   If you have filed for child support and legal paternity has not been previously established through one of the methods provided by law for doing so, paternity establishment will be part of the legal proceeding. So if that is case, you might want to withdraw your request for support enforcement services and direct support enforcement to discontinue their efforts.

     Also, as to names..... when a child is born to an unmarried woman, there is only one parent, at least in the eyes of the law. And that is the child’s mother. And this continues until and unless legal paternity is established through one of the methods provided by law for doing so. So when the child is born, the mother can give the child any name she wants. Be it her own last name, the last name of the child’s biological father, or anybody else’s name. The name given to the child has absolutely no legal connection with the paternity of the child. Had you wanted to do so, you could have name the child Elvis Presley, Jr.. It would in no way implicate or legally imply that Elvis Presely is the child’s father. Further, if and when legal paternity is ultimately established, if ever, it does not result in any automatic change of the child’s name. There is no right on the part of a legal father to have the child carry his name. And the legal obligation to pay child support, if so ordered, does mean that he has a right to demand that the child have his name.

     If legal paternity has never been established, then you are --- in the eyes of the law --- the child’s only parent. This means you are in full control. And if you want to change you child’s name, you are free to do so. No consent to anybody else is needed. (Except in some state’s you need the child’s consent if the child over a certain age, be it 13 or older. Not sure about Maryland law on this point.) Change-of-name legal proceedings are relatively easy, usually accomplished by do-it-yourself legal forms. HOWEVER, if legal paternity has been established, changing the child’s name will involve a requirement that the other parent (father) be given legal notice of your petition to the court for change of name. This does not mean you must have his consent, only that he would be entitled to “notice” and an opportunity to file a written objection (which he most likely would not do, at least in the circumstances you are presenting). And if you cannot find him for purposes of “personal service” of the notice, you may have to obtain court permission to serve him with notice by some other means, such a “service by publication” involving a classified ad in a newspaper of general circulation once a week for four consecutive weeks. (Do a Google search for “Maryland change of name” and see what pops up.)

     Also, when a child is born out of wedlock, the child’s birth certificate (regardless of the name given to the child) will not contain the name of anybody as being the child’s “father.” The line (or box) on the birth certificate will simply be filled in with a row of asterisks (“************”) just to show that the omission is intentional and not oversight. Thereafter, if and when legal paternity is established through one of the methods provided by law for doing so, Vital Record will then issue a new (or amended) birth certificate, this time showing name of father.

     OK..... moving on......   If legal paternity has already been established in your case, you might want to consider withdrawing your request for support enforcement services. Experience shows that if and when he is finally found and money is extracted from him for child support, he will sure as shootin’ re-enter the picture and demand visitation “rights” with the child, perhaps even seeking custody. Although he will most likely not prevail, it will end-up costing you a lot of money and will be emotionally frustrating. Most men, even if not really interested in the child, feel compelled to demand their “rights” of visitation if they find themselves being compelled to pay child support. So this is something you need to consider. If right now he is out of the picture and not causing you any problems, the least detrimental alternate for you may very well be to simply do nothing.

     Lastly, even if legal paternity has been previously established, that does not necessarily mean he has any legal right of visitation. He only would have legal rights of visitation if there is a court order establishing such rights. (And merely having legal paternity established does not automatically result in a court order for visitation rights. It is left up to the man who is the legal father to seek such rights, if he wants them.) Right now, you have full, sole legal and physical custody of the child by operation of law (based on your being the child’s mother) and there being no court order saying otherwise. He has no rights at this point, at least not until and unless in files a motion seeking court-ordered visitation rights, and the court grants his motion (which generally will be denied if the judge concludes that visitation would not be in the best interests of the child or would otherwise pose a danger to the child’s safety, security and welfare, be it physically, psychologically or otherwise).

     OK. I hope I have satisfactorily addressed your questions and concerns.

===========================
    Having answered your original question and now your follow-up questions(s), and assuming you are satisfied with the answer(s) and information provided, it is now time to so acknowledge by clicking the green “ACCEPT” button, if you have not already done so. And I thank you in advance for doing so.
Lawrence D. Gorin, Family Law Attorney
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 1500
Experience: 30+ years family law experience. QDROs, UIFSA, UCCJEA expertise.
Lawrence D. Gorin and 8 other Family Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thank You So Much!!! You have helped me greatly!
Expert:  Lawrence D. Gorin replied 5 years ago.
Thank you for the kind words. I wish you well, and your child, too.
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