Can You Give Up Parental Rights to Your Child in Michigan?

Is a Michigan parent allowed to legally give up rights to their child?


Over the years of working in family law, we get asked a lot of different questions. Interestingly, one of the questions we hear every now and again is whether or not a parent can simply ‘sign off’ on their parental rights to their child. There are people who have, in an effort to avoid paying child support or having the other parent pressure them into a visitation schedule, sought to give up rights to their child. The question however, is whether or not this is even possible.


The truth is that Michigan courts are very reluctant to permanently sever the connection between a child and a parent, unless another adult will be assuming the mantle of responsibility in their place. As a result, there are very few occasions when “giving up” parental rights is legally possible.


Parental Rights and Duties


Parents have constitutionally protected rights to care for and have custody of their children. As long as the children are adequately cared for and safe, the state has little need to be involved. In addition, parents have a legal obligation to financially support their children or pay child support, however there are other legal benefits that children are entitled to as well.


Children, both natural and adopted, also have other rights in the U.S. For example, social security death benefits, military benefits, inheritance rights, and legal claims for wrongful death of parents in certain situations. Children also have legal benefits from a parent, even if that parent fails to pay child support, or is a parent in name only.


How Are Rights To a Child Given Up?


Some parents believe that choosing not to participate in their child’s life is the same as giving up rights to that child. That simply isn’t true. Choosing not to pursue visitation with your child is quite different from surrendering your legal rights as a parent. There are, however, certain situations where a parent can legally give up their parental rights.


Once example of this would be Michigan’s Safe Delivery Law, which allows a parent to legally surrender an unharmed newborn who is no older than 72 hours to the correct authorities. In doing so, the parent also surrenders any legal rights they have to the child. This ensures that unwanted infants are placed with loving families, and that mothers who don’t want their newborns can hand them over safely without risking the baby’s life or abuse and neglect charges.


Another example would be when a parent with custody remarries and the new step-parent wants to legally adopts the child. In this case, the parent without custody is able to sign off on their parental rights with the court, as their is a new parent stepping into the role in their place. Obviously, if only one parent consents to the adoption it wouldn’t be sanctioned by the court.


Finally, when a parent cannot or will not parent a child properly or safely, Child Protective Services steps in and removes the child from the custody of their parent or parents. If the abuse or neglect was considered severe enough, CPS will seek to terminate that parent’s rights to their child through a petition made to the court. If the court grants the termination, the child will be cleared for adoption.


If you have any questions about child custody or about parental rights in Michigan, our highly skilled family law attorneys are here to help. Please call us at 517 866 1000 to discuss your case. We have decades of experience handling all manner of family law issues, from custody and alimony to personal protection orders and paternity cases. We are here to help you.



Stephanie just finished settling my divorce case. She did an excellent job handling every aspect of the case. When I came to her looking for an attorney, not knowing what was to come, angry and upset, she did excellent job reassuring me that everything was going to be okay. She explained the divorce process, what I could expect over the next few months and outlined the possible outcomes. She was well aware of my financial situation and very limited expendable income and did a great job doing whatever she could to keep my costs down. At times she would even remind me that she is happy to pursue any direction I wanted to go, but the cost involved may not outweigh the outcome. She did an excellent job letting me know where I could do things myself rather than paying the firm to do it as well as provided assistance to make sure I did it in the proper manner. And what was most impressive is a meeting with the ex and her lawyer. Stephanie actually had her phone out pulling up case law and verifying it to make sure the ex and her lawyer didn’t get something over on me. VERY IMPRESSIVE!. If you want an excellent attorney who isn’t going to tell you what you want to hear just to increase the cost for the firm’s benefit, call Stephanie Service.

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