I often get asked whether a party can “sign over” their parental rights. Usually this is because the other party doesn’t want anything to do with the child or doesn’t want to pay child support. The answer is: Not really. Let me explain:
There is no private right of termination in Oklahoma. Public policy (whoever gets to determine that) says that the law abhors a fatherless child. What that means is that it is generally considered to be in the best interest of the child to have a father, regardless of if the father is actually a participant in the child’s life. So the only way a party can terminate their parental rights (without the state’s help – we will get to that in a moment) is for an adoption to be pending. In that case, the father can voluntarily relinquish their parental rights in the adoption case. Important things to note:
- The father is still on the hook for child support until the adoption is finalized, although the amount of child support can be waived AFTER it becomes due by the custodial parent.
- If you do NOT want your rights terminated, and an adoption to go through, you MUST pay some child support on a fairly regular basis (even if it is not the whole amount), AND you must enforce your visitation rights IN COURT. If you have not seen your kid in over a year, and you have not attempted to legally enforce those visitation rights, you could lose if you challenge the adoption.
Now I have just talked about a “private” right to adoption to this point. DHS can terminate parental rights as a part of a Juvenile Deprived case for several different reasons that are enumerated in 10A O.S. 1-4-904.
So there you have it – you can’t usually just sign over your rights.