About once a year someone asks how to terminate the non-custodial parent's parental rights. The reasons seem to fall into some variant of the other parent being a bad person, the other parent has nothing to do with the child, the mother wants the other parent to have nothing to do with the child, or the custodial parent will not let the other parent visit the child.
The Indiana Code devotes an entire Article of the Family Code to terminating the parent-child relationship. None of the grounds I listed in the first paragraph suffice for terminating the parent-child relationship under IC 31-35. Even more to the point, nothing in IC 31-35 permits the unilateral termination of parental rights by one parent.
The parents can agree to a state agency or a private adoption agency taking the child and putting the child up for adoption. That cuts off the parental rights of both parents. That is the only voluntary termination allowed by the Indiana Code.
If the child is determined to be a child in need of services (CHINS) or a delinquent child, the Indiana Code provides a procedure for terminating parental rights. Only the the attorney for the county office of family and children, the prosecuting attorney, the child's court appointed special advocate, or the child's guardian ad litem can file a petition under this statute. The statute has very specific grounds for terminating parental rights. Again, the statute cuts off the parental rights of both parents.
A similar procedure to the second one exists where one parent commits one of the following crimes against the child:
(A) murder (IC 35-42-1-1);The child needs to have been less than 16 years old. Again, the other parent has no standing to bring this type of termination.
(B) causing suicide (IC 35-42-1-2);
(C) voluntary manslaughter (IC 35-42-1-3);
(D) involuntary manslaughter (IC 35-42-1-4);
(E) rape (IC 35-42-4-1);
(F) criminal deviate conduct (IC 35-42-4-2);
(G) child molesting (IC 35-42-4-3);
(H) child exploitation (IC 35-42-4-4);
(I) sexual misconduct with a minor (IC 35-42-4-9); or
(J) incest (IC 35-46-1-3)
Outside of IC 31-35 exists one other means of terminating a non-custodial parent's parental rights. That is IC 31-19-15-2 - a stepparent adoption.
(a) If the adoptive parent of a child is married to a biological parent of the child, the parent-child relationship of the biological parent is not affected by the adoption.Unless the non-custodial parent has not supported the child or had significant communication with the child for 1 year, then the non-custodial parent's consent is required for the adoption.
This information generally results in an unhappy client interview.
Yes, there are judges who will sign off on agreements submitted to them which purport to terminate parental rights. I never advise my clients to sign these agreements. The reasoning is quite simple:
- Indiana clearly states that child support is money held in trust by the custodial parent for the child.
- The custodial parent cannot voluntarily forgo child support (which is borne out by the Child Support Guidelines requiring a written explanation for any deviation from the Guidelines).
- Indiana law specifies the ways that a parent-child relationship can be terminated.