If a parent is no longer willing or able to care for a child, it is possible to terminate his or her rights. The parent no longer has any right to see, make decisions for or have any financial responsibility for the child.

Some people voluntarily terminate their parental rights because they feel it is in the best interest of the child. For others, rights are involuntarily terminated if a court deems the parent unfit.

Voluntary termination

If a parent wants to give up parenting rights, he or she must first attend counseling. This counseling helps the courts ensure that the person truly understands what giving up these rights will mean. When appropriate, the child also attends this counseling. Then, under Title 19 of the Colorado Revised Statutes, the person who currently has custody of the child files a petition to terminate parental rights. A judge can deny the request if he or she feels that the parent does not fully understand the consequences or is under pressure or influence from an outside source.

Voluntary termination is most common in adoption cases. A biological parent voluntarily relinquishes his or her parental rights so there is no conflict with adoptive parents’ rights.

Involuntary termination

If the court decides it is in the best interests of a child for a parent to have no rights, it can take those rights away. Evidence of abuse, abandonment and neglect are some of the reasons a court removes parental rights. The Child Welfare Information Gateway, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides more comprehensive information on involuntary termination.