Terminating Parental Rights Is Not A Quick Fix For A Poor Parenting Relationship

Can one parent waive receiving child support, the other parent waive visitation, and the parents agree to terminate the rights of the non-paying, non-visiting parent?  Family law attorneys answer this question regularly.   The short answer in Oklahoma is no.

The Oklahoma Legislature repealed the statute authorizing private termination of parental rights in 1997.  A parent can still lose his or her parental rights in Oklahoma in the following ways:

  • The state can move to terminate parental rights in a juvenile case for deprived children.
  • A judge in an adoption case can declare a child eligible for adoption without the consent of a parent in some circumstances.

Unless there is an adoption or a juvenile case in the works, living parents keep all the rights and obligations of a parent. A person’s status as a parent is a fundamental constitutional right, subject to due process and equal protection under the law. Your options are limited to enforcing or modifying those rights and obligations.

Sometimes a parent  will try to come back into a child’s life after an extended voluntary separation.  Both parents in that situation must put the interests of the child above their own.  The formerly absent parent may want to rush a relationship to make up for lost time. An active parent who has taken up slack for an absent parent will often resist efforts at reunification out of resentment or anger at the other parent.  Remember, though, this is about the child, and the child’s needs.

Do your best to identify and meet your child’s needs, setting aside your own.  Both parents must strike a balance between a child’s need to have a relationship with both parents, and the child’s need to adjust to changes in family circumstance.  If you cannot strike that balance by  agreement, you may need the help of the family court to oversee custody and parenting time decisions.

by David Tracy

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