Can You Give Up Parental Rights? A Guide to North Carolina Law

North Carolina parents have important legal rights and legal responsibilities. You may be wondering: Can one simply give up their parental rights in North Carolina? The short answer is “no” — you cannot voluntarily relinquish parental rights or parental responsibilities.

Instead, there must be a court proceeding in which the judge orders termination of parental rights (TPR). In this blog post, our Monroe family law attorneys explain some important things to know about the legal process for terminating parental rights in North Carolina.

North Carolina Law: The Legal Grounds to Terminate Parental Rights

While a person cannot simply decide to give up parental rights and responsibilities on their own, North Carolina does have 11 different grounds by which parental rights can be terminated. Under NCGS § 7B-1111, parental rights can be terminated on any of the following grounds:

  1. Parental abuse or neglect of the child;
  2. Parent willfully leaves the child in foster care (12+ months);
  3. Juvenile placed in the custody of social services (6+ months);
  4. Willful failure to pay child support to custodial parent without justification;
  5. Unmarried father knowingly fails to take action to establish legal paternity;
  6. Parent is incapable of providing adequate care;
  7. Willful abandonment of a child (6+ months);
  8. Parent convicted of murder or voluntary manslaughter of a child;
  9. Parent already lost rights to another child and cannot provide safe home;
  10. Child relinquished to state agencies for purposes of adoption; or
  11. A parent convicted of sexual assault in the conception of the child.

As you may have noticed, many of the grounds for termination of parental rights listed in the North Carolina state statute involve a parent essentially willfully abandoning their responsibilities. Nonetheless, a parent cannot terminate the rights/responsibilities on their own. A proceeding must be brought by another party and a judge must order parental rights terminated.

An Overview of TPR Hearings in North Carolina

In North Carolina, TPR hearings always happen in either the civil district court or juvenile court. The hearings are presided over by a district court judge and there is no jury. The parent whose rights are to be terminated is entitled to their own attorney or a court-appointed attorney. There is an adjudication stage and a disposition stage. If there are grounds to terminate rights, the court has the authority to do so.

This is only the first part of the equation, the court must then determine, at its own discretion, whether termination is in the best interests of the child. Even if grounds to terminate exist, the judge can decline to terminate parental rights if it is not in the best interests of the child.

These are notoriously complicated cases. If you have any questions about a TPR hearing — whether as a custodial parent, a parent who may lose their rights or a prospective adoptive parent-professional guidance is available. Contact a termination of parental rights attorney in North Carolina for immediate assistance with your case.

Call Our Monroe, NC Family Lawyers for Immediate Assistance

At Perry, Bundy, Plyler & Long, LLP, our North Carolina family lawyers have extensive experience helping clients find solutions to their legal problems. If you have any questions about terminating parental rights, we are here to help.

Call us now or contact our firm online to arrange a confidential consultation. With an office location in Monroe, we provide family law services in Union County, including in Monroe, Matthews, Indian Trail, Unionville, Marshville, and Waxhaw.