The law is meant to be protective of parental rights. When it comes to giving up parental rights in the case of an adoption, there are a few ways that can happen.
Consider, for example, that a child has both a biological mother and a biological father who divorce. The father gets remarried and wants his new wife to legally adopt his child.
The biological mother could consent to the adoption, thereby voluntarily giving up her rights as the mother of that child. Or, if there is convincing evidence that the biological mother is somehow abusing or neglecting the child, she would forfeit her rights to the child who could then be adopted by his stepmother.
In both of the above cases, the biological mother has made some sort of choice to give up her rights to her child. This should be comforting to parents because as long as they don’t consent to the adoption, and they follow the relevant statutes and guidelines, and are a caring and loving parent, they don’t have to worry about losing rights to their child through adoption without a hearing.
But what if I have a custody order in place? Can I still lose my rights? Yes, you can. There are a few ways in which that can happen: 1. You failed to answer the notice of adoption in time, or 2. the court finds that it is in the best interests of the child to terminate your rights.
When a party wants to adopt a child, they must send the biological parent notice of that adoption and the attempt to terminate their rights. If the biological mother is served a notice that the opposing party wants an adoption to take place, she has 30 days in which to file a response with the court. In practice that means that without an attorney, she has roughly 20 days to respond. If she fails to do so, the statute is clear: mom’s rights are effectively terminated. Also, be warned : if your response does not meet the strict requirements of the statute, you will also effectively lose your rights.
If you receive a notice of adoption, and you want to preserve your parental rights, it is imperative that you contact an attorney. Assuming you properly respond, the court must determine if it is in the best interests of the child to terminate the parent’s rights.
There have been situations in which parental rights have been terminated based on a technicality. If you ever find yourself in a situation where your rights to your child are being threatened, reach out to an experienced attorney immediately and become very aware of the time frame and the way in which you are expected to respond.