Relinquishment Law & Legal Definition


Relinquishment, in the context of adoption law, refers to a birthparent voluntarily giving up his or her parental rights to a child, so that the child may be adopted. Usually, the parental rights are transferred to an agency, rather than directly to the new adoptive parents, so that the agency can maintain the level of confidentiality or privacy that the parties desire and have agreed to in the adoption. The agency then transfers the parental rights on to the adoptive parents who adopt the child. The term is also used to refer to the actual relinquishment documents that are signed by the birth parents as part of the relinquishment process.

Relinquishment may also refer to a parent giving up custody of a child voluntarily or as ordered by a court. A final order by the court removes the relinquishing parent or parents of all legal rights and obligations they may have with respect to the child relinquished, but it does not usually modify the child's status as an heir at law, which stops only upon a following final decree of adoption. The relinquishing parent's or parents' obligation to pay for services received through the Department of Social Services, or other support received, will end after a final decree of adoption or by order of the court at the time of relinquishment. A court often has discretion to deny the relinquishment is the sole motivation is to avoid child support payments. The order of relinquishment releases the relinquished child from all legal obligations to the relinquishing parent or parents.

Local laws vary, so they law in your area should be consulted. The following is an example of a state law governing voluntary relinquishment of parental rights:

" Voluntary relinquishment -- Irrevocable.

  1. Voluntary relinquishment or consent for termination of parental rights shall be signed or confirmed under oath either:
  2. (a) before a judge of any court that has jurisdiction over proceedings for termination of parental rights in this state or any other state, or a public officer appointed by that court for the purpose of taking consents or relinquishments; or

    (b) except as provided in Subsection (2), any person authorized to take consents or relinquishments under Subsections 78-30-4.18(1) and (2).

  3. Only the juvenile court is authorized to take consents or relinquishments from a parent who has any child who is in the custody of a state agency or who has a child who is otherwise under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court.
  4. The court, appointed officer, or other authorized person shall certify to the best of that person's information and belief that the person executing the consent or relinquishment has read and understands the consent or relinquishment and has signed it freely and voluntarily.
  5. A voluntary relinquishment or consent for termination of parental rights is effective when it is signed and may not be revoked.
  6. The requirements and processes described in Sections 78-3a-402 through 78-3a-410 do not apply to a voluntary relinquishment or consent for termination of parental rights. The court need only find that the relinquishment or termination is in the child's best interest.
  7. There is a presumption that voluntary relinquishment or consent for termination of parental rights is not in the child's best interest where it appears to the court that the primary purpose is to avoid a financial support obligation. The presumption may be rebutted, however, if the court finds the relinquishment or consent to termination of parental rights will facilitate the establishment of stability and permanency for the child.
  8. Upon granting a voluntary relinquishment the court may make orders relating to the child's care and welfare that the court considers to be in the child's best interest."

Some states provide for counseling to parents considering relinquishment. The following is an example of one state's law govening such counseling:

2505. Counseling.

  1. List of counselors.--Any hospital or other facility providing maternity care shall provide a list of available counselors and counseling services compiled pursuant to subsection (b) to its maternity patients who are known to be considering relinquishment or termination of parental rights pursuant to this part. The patient shall sign an acknowledgment of receipt of such list prior to discharge, a copy of which receipt shall be provided to the patient.
  2. Compilation of list.--The court shall compile a list of qualified counselors and counseling services (including all adoption agencies) which are available to counsel natural parents within the county who are contemplating relinquishment or termination of parental rights pursuant to this part. Such list shall be distributed to every agency, hospital or other facility providing maternity care within the county and shall be made available upon request to any intermediary or licensed health care professional.
  3. Court referral.--Prior to entering a decree of termination of parental rights pursuant to section 2503 (relating to hearing) or 2504 (relating to alternative procedure for relinquishment), if the parent whose rights are to be terminated is present in court, the court shall inquire whether he or she has received counseling concerning the termination and the alternatives thereto from an agency or from a qualified counselor listed by a court pursuant to subsection (b). If the parent has not received such counseling, the court may, with the parent's consent, refer the parent to an agency or qualified counselor listed by a court pursuant to subsection (b) for the purpose of receiving such counseling. In no event shall the court delay the completion of any hearing pursuant to section 2503 or 2504 for more than 15 days in order to provide for such counseling.
  4. Application for counseling.--Any parent who has filed a petition to relinquish his or her parental rights, or has executed a consent to adoption, and is in need of counseling concerning the relinquishment or consent, and the alternatives thereto, may apply to the court for referral to an agency or qualified counselor listed by a court pursuant to subsection
  5. (b) for the purpose of receiving such counseling. The court, in its discretion, may make such a referral where it is satisfied that this counseling would be of benefit to the parent.