Can I refuse to sign over my parental rights? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 17 Old 03-18-2014, 12:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I was served papers to sign over my parental rights to my son today, and I'm not sure what I should do. I have paid child support his whole life, and the mother has refused to let me see him. I haven't seen him in 4 years, I have tossed around the idea of getting a lawyer to get visitation, but I have not had the money for one. I have been told he is very happy with his life now but I don't want to lose him forever. His mother and I where a one night thing than she left her boyfriend and had my son. Than she got married. She has been married now for almost a year and he is the one wanting to adopt him. I have a 4 year old daughter with the woman I am with and have been with for 7 years. I have a good stable job and my own home, could I get custody of him? I do not want to sign my rights over and I don't know what to do. PLEASE HELP

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#2 of 17 Old 03-18-2014, 01:40 PM
 
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Of course not!!!  Your parental rights are YOUR rights - even if you don't see your child for whatever reason, you have the right to be named as the parent of that child.  No one can make you sign away those rights.  They can be taken away in extreme cases, but if that were a possibility in your case, you wouldn't have been given a paper ASKING you to sign.


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#3 of 17 Old 03-18-2014, 01:47 PM
 
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Also, I really doubt you could get custody at this point, but if you had a lawyer, you could always try for access.  Your outcome would depend on a lot of things, but my main question would be your motives, and your intentions.  You have to put the child's interests first.  I know it's a desperate, helpless feeling, but remember that you cannot be forced into signing your rights away.  If you want to go for access, please make sure you do so after careful thought, in a way that is considerate of the child who might not even know you exist, and as hard as it is, the child's mother and family.  Desperation and fighting dirty won't get you far in most cases.  It's not an easy and fast thing to do, if you want to follow through on being part of his life, so patience and peace are what you need to be practicing.  Don't panic - they can't force you to do anything.  

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#4 of 17 Old 03-18-2014, 02:31 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for your feedback, My other question is do you think I could be granted visitation? She has refused to let me see him, and I would like to see him. I know he is happy with his mom but this guy has just came into his life and now he wants to take my place because me and his mom could not work out visitation. I believe she is refusing because she does not know who I am, She has only seen me the night our son was created and in court when we worked out child support. Im not sure what i should do next. Do i take her to court because i don't want to sign the papers. Or are they going to take me to court?

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#5 of 17 Old 03-18-2014, 02:56 PM
 
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If you've been paying child support and haven't seen him only because she has refused to allow it, then I imagine most judges would grant some kind of access.  I would be prepared for some raised eyebrows at making a request after all this time, and a fight from his mother, but he should be allowed a chance to know both of his parents regardless of how you feel about each other. 


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#6 of 17 Old 03-18-2014, 02:57 PM
 
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Did you not get a visitation plan in court?

I only ask because presumably you could go to court even without a lawyer and explain that you want to be in his life but have been refused access. Unless you are in jail or a drug dealer you would at least get access to your son. It had to be quite extreme to be denied access.
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#7 of 17 Old 03-18-2014, 05:03 PM
 
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In my state you can get visitation even without a lawyer and they ate big on protecting father's rights. It is easier with a lawyer though because court is difficult to walk through. I think asking for two months of weekly short visits supervised at your home then the standard minimum for your state would be a good way to start. It is what I asked for my ex to do when returning to wanting visitation and he and my dd both found it helpful. Make sure you include the exact times the visits are to take place and possibly a statement that says if one visit is missed you go straight to the set unsupervised visits.
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#8 of 17 Old 03-19-2014, 01:03 PM
 
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You cannot be forced to give up (i.e. sign away) your rights, but legal technicalities may result in loss of rights if you don't take the necessary actions now. Scour over the papers you received to see if it indicates a deadline for response, assuming one is required. If it doesn't say, call the clerk of the court to inquire if they can tell you what the rules of the court are for responding to this kind of request. I would schedule consultations with an attorney (or two or three) who practice family law in your area to see if they can tell you if there are any actions (or lack of actions) that will grant the mother's request to remove your rights even without your signing so you can avoid losing your rights. You could also consult legal aid in your area, or if you live near a law school, contact the school to see if they have resources to help you. You need to determine if there is some minimum response you need to make, what that response is, and the deadline to file the response. I suspect that if you don't respond at all, she could present evidence to the court that you abandoned the child and the court could grant her request to remove your rights (without your consent). Her evidence wouldn't have to be very convincing if you're not there arguing against it--that is, the problem won't go away by ignoring it.

 

Is a hearing scheduled? If you don't know, do a web search for "your state court schedule" to find where your state posts public court information online and query if she has a hearing scheduled. She's legally obligated to serve you notice if a hearing is scheduled but she could still try to slip something past in hopes that a default decision will be made in her favor and that you'll accept it rather than fight it.

Do a web search for "your state bar association" to find your state's bar association online and find a lawyer directory. This is useful over the phonebook because you can find who is licensed in the state as opposed to just the ones who are listed in the phonebook for your area.

 

 

Whatever you do, your time for response is likely limited (most likely 10-21 days at most) so there's no time to delay if you want to maintain parental rights. Good luck.


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#9 of 17 Old 03-19-2014, 03:28 PM
 
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Yes, assuming you aren't a major criminal and don't have history of any sort of behavior that would be dangerous (like being an abuser), I think you could get visitation. The legal system places a huge priority on parents having access to their children. You should be able to file for visitation without needing a lawyer; you'd just have to be really diligent in making sure you've filed all the right stuff at the right times. Our county court provides some free legal services for people who can't afford lawyers, so if I were you, I'd find out how to contact the family services branch of your local court and ask for help in this matter.

 

It is important to be sensitive to the child's needs and to recognize that he may not know about you, and learning about you could be really difficult for him. He may not think he wants to visit with you, and might be fearful or anxious about such a big change. But, I also wouldn't let whatever the mother has told the child without your knowledge or agreement be the deciding factor. It is simply an issue to be especially sensitive about and maybe consider getting professional counseling to help with.


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#10 of 17 Old 03-19-2014, 04:36 PM
 
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You don't need a lawyer to get access to your child.  Hurry up and do it now or you will be portrayed as abandoning the child and after so much time they may be able to get a TPR against your will.


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#11 of 17 Old 03-19-2014, 04:38 PM
 
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Generally speaking, parental rights are only taken when the parent in question is really horrible and awful, or has completely abandoned the child. But you can't be forced, and given that she's asking you to give them up, I suspect they can't take them either.

 

However, failure to respond to the paperwork at all could result in a claim of abandonment, and that could result in the termination of your rights. I'm not sure how it would work in your state, but in mine, even a notarized page that has your signature and something as simple as "I refuse to give up my rights" is good enough to be a response. It would, at the least, result in a court hearing being set so the judge can hear both sides.

 

But as others have suggested, I would try to find some kind of legal advice - legal aid, free consultation, something. And I would do it sooner rather than later, because there's usually a deadline for responding to any court documents. Check the paperwork over, it should give you the deadline somewhere in there. It usually is worded something to the effect of, "You must respond by March 19, 2014" or "You have 20 days from the date of this document to respond."

 

Another thing to think about, in regard to access: Many times, these cases are separated out. Child support is one thing, visitation another, rights a third. And if your in court for one, they only want to talk about the one, and will tell you to file for another that you wish to discuss. For example, a hearing about child support is supposed to be about child support and if you say you want to get visitation, they'll tell you to file paperwork and get a hearing for that, that you are here to discuss child support. So you may not be able to discuss visitation in the hearing for the rights, other than to say that the only reason you haven't been in his life is because his mother has prevented it. They may not want to work on visitation for you at that point. I would recommend looking into filing the paperwork to get visitation, and get that ball rolling before you even go in there. If nothing else, at least that will show that you are trying.

 

Don't delay on any of this. This is definitely a situation where time is of the essence. Good luck!

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#12 of 17 Old 03-21-2014, 12:23 PM
 
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Have you considered that it may be in the child's best interest to let his step dad adopt him? Have you considered that the child may want him to? I mean, 4 years later and now you want to see him? I question your motives. 


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#13 of 17 Old 03-21-2014, 08:12 PM
 
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Have you kept records of your attempts to see the child and work out a visitation schedule iwth the mother? Do you have any records of conversations (email, text, IM, etc)? If not, then you may be in trouble- it does look suspicious that you've gone four years without trying to see your child, and the mother may be able to argue that you effectively abandoned him.

If you can prove that you've been trying to see your son and she's been refusing to let you, that actually may work out for you. You may be able to prove parental alienation (refusing to let you see your son IS parental alienation), if that is what's been going on.

 

I'm really curious why a visitation schedule wasn't sorted out when you were sorting out child support.

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by micah_mae_ View Post
 

Have you considered that it may be in the child's best interest to let his step dad adopt him? Have you considered that the child may want him to? I mean, 4 years later and now you want to see him? I question your motives. 

Based on his claims, he's either painfully clueless and (possibly intentionally) misinformed, or was being lazy about it until he realized that he could lose his son altogether. If it's the former, I feel bad for him. If the latter, I agree that I'm not impressed.


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#14 of 17 Old 04-25-2014, 09:31 AM
 
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Check your States custody laws. For instance if you were to stop paying child support for 6 months consecutively where you also did not see the child. Then She would not need permission to terminate your rights. Talk to a lawyer and get something in the works. Otherwise again depending on the State after a year or more passes if you don't see the child or attempt to see it then they don't need your permission, regardless of paying child support or not. Keep your messages between you and the mom. Also see why they want you to sign the papers. If it is just because they want you out of the picture don't unless that's really what you wan to do.  If it's so the child can have the same last name as his new father. Some States have a paper you can sign to allow the child's last name to be changed from yours. You may be able to use it as a bargaining chip for visitation. Also, you can come up with a schedule for visitation as long as you both sign and date the paper most courts will treat it as an official agreement between you to. It could even be on a napkin as long as you both sign it that's all that matters. Best of luck to you. Hope it goes better then my situation.

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#15 of 17 Old 04-25-2014, 10:19 AM
 
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Do you have proof of all your child support payments? Also of any requests you made to see your child and her written refusal?

 

How on earth did she manage to convince you to pay child support without offering any visitation?

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#16 of 17 Old 04-25-2014, 11:06 AM
 
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Courts really don't consider support and visitation as part of some equitable package, they handle them separately. The OP's ex could easily have taken him to court for child support without discussing visitation at all, and she wouldn't have to convince the OP to do anything - once support is court ordered, the OP's wages can be garnished if he doesn't pay.
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#17 of 17 Old 04-25-2014, 07:25 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mamabear0314 View Post
 

Have you considered that it may be in the child's best interest to let his step dad adopt him? Have you considered that the child may want him to? I mean, 4 years later and now you want to see him? I question your motives. 

 

First of all, they can't force you to sign over your rights, but please keep into consideration that, depending on how old your child is, if he knows you're his father or thinks his stepdad is his father, his relationship with his stepdad (I know you don't want to hear this, but he may be close to this man and love this man as his Dad), and how settled into his life he is right now, you pushing for visitation might be more for your benefit than your child's benefit.  It sucks, and it's not fair, and if the Mother kept you away from the child without good reason, that's just wrong, but it's something to keep in mind.  The fact that you're considering custody when you're a virtual stranger to the child makes me wonder who you're putting first, but even if by some chance the courts granted you custody, how would the child feel being taken from his family and placed with somebody he didn't know?  Please tread slowly, for your son's sake.  And if you do decide to go for visitation, please go even slower, be considerate of the child's feelings, don't be offended if he doesn't feel comfortable doing Daddy/son things with you right away, etc, don't be angry with him if he talks about his stepfather in a good light or even calls the other man, "Dad".  Your son's best interests and needs and feelings need to come first, whatever that may be.


I pray for the day Family Court recognizes that CHILDREN have rights, parents only have PRIVILEGES.  Only then, will I know my child is safe.
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