Minnesota's Family Law Blog

Termination of Parental Rights.

When can your parental rights be terminated in Minnesota?

Terminating Parental Rights | It’s definitely not a happy topic, but parents facing involuntary termination of their parental rights need to know some important information about when a court can take away such rights.  “Termination of parental rights” means that the court takes away any rights the parent had in regard to the child—custody, parenting time, decisions about the child’s upbringing or welfare.  It’s not a temporary decision that lets the parent still be involved in the child’s life.  If your parental rights are terminated, you can’t get them back by becoming a better parent; termination of parental rights is a permanent, irreversible determination.

First, a quick note:  if the child involved is an Indian child, you should talk with your attorney about other issues not discussed here that the court might consider in a termination of parental rights case due to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)

In general, a court can terminate a parent’s rights based on any one of several circumstances.  One of those circumstances is abandonment.  It’s considered to be abandonment of a child when the parent deserts the child and intends to try to get away from his duties as a parent.  Whether or not the parent abandoned the child can depend on how long the parent was away from the child; for example, in one case, a mother was found to have abandoned her son when she had no contact with him for 10 months.

Just because a parent is in jail will not mean that the parent has abandoned his or her child.  If the jailed parent had a parental relationship with the child before being sent to jail, and the parent continued that relationship to the best of his ability while in jail (through letters, cards, visits, etc.), the parent can continue to have parental rights.   But, the fact of a parent being a jail can be used in combination with other factors, like neglect or abuse, to support termination of the parent’s rights.

A court can also terminate parental rights based on neglect of the child.  Don’t worry about being caught unaware by this one—no one is going to suddenly look at your child at school one day, decide the child has been neglected, and try to take away your parental rights.  Parental rights are only terminated based on neglect when there has been a continuous or repeated neglect of the child despite the efforts of a social services agency, or when the neglect is so bad that no social worker is realistically going to be able to do anything about.

The other main reason for termination of parental rights cases, when they happen, is a parent’s failure to provide for the child financially despite having been ordered to do so.  The “having been ordered to do so” part is important—your parental rights won’t be terminated if you simply are struggling to pay for all your child’s expenses.  Taking away a parent’s rights based on financial neglect only happens when the parent has been ordered to pay child support and fails to do so for no good reason.  If you have a good reason for failing to comply with a support order, your rights won’t be taken away.

So, you can see it’s an unpleasant, but serious issue that you may need to be aware of.  Hopefully, you won’t have any questions, but if you do, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or give me a call.

Information obtained in mankatofamilylaw.com may contain knowledgable content about Minnesota Family Law that may be considered beneficial to some; however, in no way should this website or its contents be considered legal advice. Mr. Kohlmeyer is a Minnesota licensed Attorney and cannot provide legal services or guidance to those outside of Minnesota. If you wish to retain Mr. Kohlmeyer as your Attorney in your Family Law matter, contact 507-205-9736.

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Comments 81
  1. My son has a 50/50 custody agreement/judgement for his daughter which he got the child’s mother to stipulate to in 2017. He has actually had actual physical (not legal) custody of her since she was 6mths old when her mother moved out and left them. Her mother had some short stints of weekend visitation from 2015 to 2017 and then stopped seeing her all together more than 2 years ago. She has not even attempted contact by telephone, social media or any means in nearly 2 years. We do not currently know where she lives, have a phone number or any other contact information for her other than knowing where some of her relatives live. She had two other children with someone else after leaving, both of which were removed from her by the courts and social services 18 months ago. We are in contact with the families that have those children. She has had no contact with them either. She had/has spent time in both county and state prison for felony drug charges. She was living on a reservation in Minnesota with her aunt but is not an enrolled member in any reservation nor is she eligible for enrollment due to not being qualified. My son wonders about terminating her rights so that he might have full custody and also be able to travel with his daughter without having to face additional issues.

  2. My wife and i signed a voluntary termination of parental rights and i believe we were misrepresented, misled fraudulently coearsed in a untimely manner to make a life changeing decision that will affect 5 people th judge accepted the paper without taking in paramount the bond our fmily has and the effect it would have in the best interest of the kids . also my w ife and i have complied for the last 9 months with their recommendations yet we got nothing and our lawyere flat out said that we couldnt win and if we ever wantrd to see our kids that signing over our rights was the only way its like emotional duress .

  3. My husband lost prenatal rights 7+ years ago. The childern went to his mother that has let us visit an take them for weekends. Well he has an amazing relationship that his mother has let them build together. She is now starting to hold them against him due to religious beliefs and the oldest 14 has been getting into trouble. Everynight his mother is calling my husband yelling at him because the teen is wanting to talk to his dad about needs that his mother is not providing and making the teen feel deppressed quoting “your the devil like your father”. We supply summer clothes, winter and school clothing for him. My husbands mother has told him multiple times that she dosnt know what to do with the oldest 14 yearold anymore an wants to send him to foster care to learn a leason. She has spoke to others about it and it has got back to my husband and i everytime. The teen calls us and tells us how he wants his father an time qith his father but his grandma will be in the back ground telling him to hang up because we do “witchcraft” lol. Witch is collecing rocks and earthy materials to put on display. Well any who. With him loosing his parental rights would i be able to step in legally and be a provider to this child even though his father is in the home? Or a schedule with him through courts? My husband has also had cantact with his school as needed with them understanding he has no rights but is still active by the approval of his mother.

    1. Hmm, tough spot you’re in.

      It really depends on what you mean when you said he lost his parental rights. If his right were in fact, terminated, then it’s the death of the family. period. Can’t do anything about it.

      On the other hand if he just had custody transferred and no parenting, that’s a whole other ballgame that can possible be fixed.

      If your husband wants a relationship, with the child get him to set up a time to talk to a family lawyer asap and review the previous orders.

      Good luck!

  4. my parental rights were terminated voluntary but not. I had an attorney who told the courts that I wished to do that as he yelled at me pressured me I tried to vacate and the judge said I was not under duress when I was. the judge allowed this while breaking my constitutional rights what can I do?

  5. Need advice..a mother & father (married) had parental rights terminated 6 times (all but the first one was take at birth, last one was taken end of 2015). Husband is in prison (for 2 yrs), wife has new boyfriend and is now pregnant with boyfriends baby. Boyfriend already has 2 kids with someone else and has his full parental rights. Will CPS come take this baby at birth also because mothers rights for other 6 kids were terminated? How does it affect future children of this mother has since parental rights have been terminated previously?

  6. Hello.
    I was just wondering about adoption. My son’s father and I both signed a ROP and his birth father’s name is on is birth certificate. However, he has not seen him in over 3 Years, (my son is 4.) He’s never paid any amount of child support.
    I have been with the father of my daughter (3 years.) For 4 years in January. We are not married yet, but he is all my son knows and I am looking at options to terminate my son’s birth father’s parental rights.
    I didon’t have an open CPS case about three years ago. It has been closed since June, 2015. His father was given multiple occasions to have supervised time as that he was abusive while I was pregnant. Not a thing came of it.
    So again, I was just wondering of possible outcomes.

    thank you.

    1. Curious if you ever got an answer. My ex wife lost her rights but is not pregnant. Is she at risk of loading that baby now too? Idk if you have that answer yourself. Thank you

  7. I have had my rights to my two daughters ( 3 & 2 ) involuntarily terminated in 2015, and I just found out im expecting again. I have been sober for over a year, havent been in any other trouble since completing my prison sentence, have not had any violations with my parole officer, i have two stable jobs, and a safe, sober environment. What im wondering is, will CPS take my newborn because of my involuntary termination? Whats going to happen?

  8. I had agreed to temporary gaurdianship of my neice and nephew back in Nov. I paid to have them brought to Az from Mn. My temp gaurdianship expired and I now have perminate because I have not heard from their mother in over 6 months. Do I have grounds to file abandonment/ neglect charges against their mother? If so, what state would I file it in? From what I understand, mom has CPS cases against her for leaving the kids alone in Mn. She’s doing drugs and still can’t hold a job or a place to live. My brother (their dad) is planning to come get the kids at the end of this year and is taking them back to Mn. When I sign the paper saying I will no longer need to be their gaurdian because their fathers taking them, will this open their mother to having rights to them again in Mn.
    Thank you.

    1. Thank you for your time. I still need to find out if I have grounds to file abandonment or neglect charges against her.

  9. Hello,

    I’ve been watching this page for awhile hoping that someone has a similar situation yet but haven’t come across one yet. My son was born in September, 2011 and I broke up with the father and requested he leave my home when my son was eight months old due to the father’s addiction to Heroin that a family member informed me of. Evidence of the drug addiction was found in his vehicle, additionally he stole all of my jewelry and pawned it to feed his drug habit (I still have the receipts I found in our car). Since then, I believe the father has seen my son about 6 times, always supervised at my home. He has not had a steady relationship with him, paid any child support (I never filed a request for it), has been homeless, jobless and in and out of prison for felony charges related to drugs and theft. My son doesn’t know his father and never sees him. Is it worth going to court over to try and remove his parental rights? I feel like child abandonment is pretty obvious here and I’m always worried that he’s just going to show up out of the blue one day claiming he’s changed and ready to be a parent. I’ve been through enough raising my son alone his entire life, he’s almost 5 now. What are your thoughts? I cannot trust this person with my child. I do not receive state support, have a stable career and provide a happy, healthy environment for my child.

    Thank you in advance!

    1. Kate,

      Thanks for the email.

      If you haven’t been to court yet where the Judge has ordered that the father has been given some rights such as custody & parenting time, then you really don’t need to do anything since he isn’t really legally the father. I assume you weren’t married and unmarried fathers in Minnesota really have very few rights. If he doesn’t go to an order saying he’s the father then no need to go to court.

      Hope that helps.

  10. My Husband and I have separated, following an incident involving my 10 yr old daughter. Child Protection is involved and filing a CHIPS termination of parental rights. I am not in agreement of this action, because it will take away my right to child support and this was his first offense and he is in treatment.

    I am very confused about all this. I do take my responsibility of making sure my child is safe very seriously. He will not ever live with us again for her protection, but I do want for her sake to try to reestablish a healthy relationship with him, through the counseling and his treatment program. I will follow all the recommendations of his treatment program and he will too. I have informed the CPS worker of that intention. But my understanding is if the termination of parental rights goes through, this won’t be possible.

    If there is a reasonable safety plan in place is it possible to stop the termination of parental rights?

    1. Tough situation and a bit unique. Most of the time they (the county) will attempt to terminate both parent’s rights if they lived together when a serious incident occurred. If the father’s rights are terminated then that is usually, but not always, the end of contact between parent and child.

      If the County and Social Worker won’t agree then you do have the right the right to a trial and it sounds like this may be the direction you’re headed.

      -Jason Kohlmeyer

  11. This is far from your basic termination of parental rights. I was awarded permanent sole physical and legal custody of my children. Their “mother” has been on meth for quite some time. Her rights were terminated about 3 years ago. 4 years ago, she ran off with her drug dealer boyfriend and left me and my 2 sons. This, after hiding a pregnancy by another man, and having the baby in a toilet at her mother’s house. The baby survived and was given up for adoption because she “had no emotional attachment” to the child. I took her back and we tried to make it work. It didnt. I was packing her stuff to move her out of the house, and I came across a gruesome discovery. I found a dead baby, black as night in a plastic walmart bag. I immediately called the police. They took my children, and sealed off the house. Took her to jail for questioning. She claims the baby was a still birth, got scared and hid it. After 2 days the children were released to me, but with child protection involved and everything that comes with that. After 2 years of cps and the courts, I was awarded permanent sole physical and legal custody of my boys. Visitation is at my discretion as court order. She has seen the boys here and there maybe once every few months. Missing many holidays and birthdays. Fast forward to today. She messages my fiancé and says she is in treatment, and once she gets out she would like to set up visitation and counseling for my kids. I was asked to call someone with the state, project reman to answer some questions.
    I want to know if she has any chance whatsoever to get any sort of custody back? Do I need to worry about setting up visitation. What are my legal rights. Should I hire an attorney? Please help.

  12. 1st order October 2013 50-50 joint and physical custody. One month later mom decides to move to North Dakota 5 hrs away. For 6 mths I drive halfway every weekend for exchanges. My daughter turns four and I enroll her in preschool. Mother will not allow it. I start thinking long term and file a motion to modify. Mother fails to show after 3 continuances and I testify instead of taking the default judgement. Mother is awarded every other weekend meeting halfway. I bring our child to the next exchange and that is the last time I see her for over two months. I petitioned the court and got an ex parte order granting me full custody and giving mother supervised visitation. Mom refuses to follow order and North Dakota refuses to enforce MN order. FBI and filling a motion to register a foreign judgment and grand forks police return my daughter. We have an evidentiary hearing and I am awarded full legal custody with joint physical custody mom gets supervised visitations every other weekend. She sets them up but doesn’t show 3 times then she comes on and off for a few months. Meanwhile she harasses me and step mother to her daughter calling our employers and threatening us with physical violence we both have restraining orders on her. Even though she doesn’t see her daughter since the visitation center will not allow her to use there services anymore we have our daughter call her every other Tuesday, reasonable contact in court order. After every call the police come to our home. 20+ times since the original order. CPS investigation from her accusations of sexual assault by me found unsubstantiated. Over a year and mom has seen her two times, stepmom is ready to adopt. Mother has paid no child support, has threatened stepmom and custodial parent, doesn’t visit daughter, constantly makes false accusations, what are our options no one has any answers. Can we get her rights terminated?

  13. My son’s father and I have not always gotten along. That’s no secret. But after I got married, he’s now talking about wanting to sign his rights away to our child we had before I got married. Is their any way to do so without involving my husband in an adoption? Is their any way that I could get 100% legal, soul, and physical custody? And could my son’s father later on revoke the custody agreement and get custody again?

    1. Thanks for the question, the short answer is it’s pretty unlikely that the Court would allow him to just quit being dad. Then if you throw in the issue of the county and if they are paying any medical assistance or other benefits.

      The best way to go about this would be to “tweak” the order so that you have sole physical and legal custody.

      Good Luck

      Jason Kohlmeyer

  14. You keep asking why a mom would want to terminate the birth father’s rights. I’ve supported my son on my own (he’s now 11) since I divorced his “father” nine years ago. I have never received county assistance or had CPS involved in my life and I’d like to do things like get my son a passport without needing a signature from some guy he hasn’t seen or had contact with in 10 years. I’d pay $4,000 and waive every dime of unpaid child support tomorrow to make that happen.

  15. What can I do when my case has been closed due to the state’s inability to locate the absent parent for more than 3 years? I have reapplied to the county for assistance in getting CS, but I never received any paperwork to follow up with my request. Absentee lives in South Carolina and was behind about $20,000 at the time the case was closed (December 2013). I honestly believe that Minnesota didn’t even try to find absentee, even though I provided information as I got it, including phone numbers and addresses.

    The child was nearly 2 when absentee left, and is now 13. Support was received for approximately 5 months total in 11 years.

    1. Well the reason the state cares at all is if the your child was getting some sort of assistance, after that then when you apply for assistance they do help..but generally not very much.

      What you probably want to do is hire a private lawyer seek to have held in contempt, levy any bank accounts, cars and other assets then if all that fails get him back up here and ask the Judge to send him to jail. It’s a long process, but it can be done.

      Good Luck

  16. I’m going to keep this as brief as I can in hopes of a reply in a timely manner, perhaps a consultation. Noticing your legal advise to these other comments this is more than any of what I’m seeing. A case of a lifetime. We are currently in a never “successfully” done before in the state of MN Termination of Parental Rights case against the OTHER parent, mother. Has been in the courts since Feb 2015 and is ongoing for our three children. (I am the step mother, My husband the Father has full custody since 2010, I stand ready to adopt as I have been raising them with him for 5 entire years now) We have a lawyer, and he openly admits he has never done a case like this or any termination case. We are looking into hiring another for a fresh set of eyes and arguments.

    There is 5 years of history of abandonment (went 14 months of no contact-our lawyer submitted a letter asking if she would voluntarily terminate and then proceeded to want to see them again), criminal history, mother being state declared as chemically dependent, been to treatment 5 times and counting. When looking at the statues, she is all but one of the 9. Difference obviously is those statues are basically written for a termination by social services. Which makes a Parent verses Parent case very difficult even though the scenarios are the same. She has also failed the supervised visitation but was granted it again at our last hearing in June because the Guardian recommended that, even against the children’s wishes. (She was suspended twice and then terminated from the facility-they have been on again and off again which really messed the kids up) Has two children in her custody currently with two different fathers after she lost all custody rights (of our three) in which she has lost and gained back. (The other two) (CHIPS)

    We hired a PI in 2010 in which includes MANY witness statements. We have the evidence for this or we wouldn’t have attempted. Our paperwork submitted to the courts was literally 4 inches thick of evidence and takes 3-4 hours to read. It’s all evidence through many sources. The judge doesn’t know what to do and at our last hearing in June stated he spoke with several judges around the state. A Guardian Ad litem is assigned, however, is now 3 months behind on her recommendation, has failed these children terribly. Literally has things backwards (obviously overworked) We think we just need this case in a higher court? I mean it has never been done in MN, the “statues” are on our side.

    The children see a therapist and has some limited conversations with the Guardian in which she states are the most backward and awkward conversations with a person she has ever had. She doesn’t seem to get anything right. Yet the fate of our children are ultimately in her hands? (I know it’s not her final decision but judges 9 times out of 10 go with it). I’m just going to stop here. There are obviously so many factors that I can’t put into this if I want to keep it brief, perhaps you are now intrigued? lol Thank you for your time.

    1. Thanks for the email.

      Sounds like a very tough case, although it’s not unheard of in MN, what I think you are seeing is that it’s very uncommon to file a private CHIPS or Private TPR case and the reason why it’s so uncommon is that most Judges will give the benefit of the doubt to the other parent over and over and over again as long as they say they want to stay in the child’s life.

      You need a decision by the district court, either for or against you. If it’s for you then great! If it’s against you then you may want to consider appealing to the Court of Appeals, but you can’t do that until the order comes down.

      Sounds like an interesting case, but your lawyer is right, it’s a very uphill battle in today’s world to terminate parental rights as you describe the case.

      Good luck!

      Jason Kohlmeyer

      1. Thank you for your reply. I did not see it until now, figured my email would notify me.

        In update we dismissed the case on Nov. 24th. She asked for Parenting time to be changed to un-supervised and the Guardian stepped in saying she would not recommend that at this time due to the current emotional health of the children. Pre-Trial went terrible and yet another new judge. He denied her request to that but openly stated we can look into it at Trial. We could not handle them potentially giving her more than supervised visitation in a non-Family court knowing she has a pattern and will slip up again.

        (I did not mention previously that one of the 3 children is Special Needs and the other two are diagnosed with Adjustment Disorders since she began supervised visitation again after going 14 plus months without)

        If she would want more than supervised she will have to bring it back up in family court. Unfortunately the children in the matter are the ones that have to suffer emotionally. They have an amazing therapist who is aware of this entire case.

        She was arrested for yet another assault 5 days later after we dismissed. She was able to keep out of trouble for exactly 1 year. (2014 arrests were July 4th, Nov 8 and Nov 29th). She was released without bail is scheduled for court the end of December.

        The safety of our children is the priority, but what can truly be done for those other two non-joint children in her custody? There has to be something other than CPS? They are way too over worked and have not followed up on her since they were taken away in the first place in 2012. Why wouldn’t police report? Police reports state them on scene of several arrests. Her conditions to have them returned were remain law abiding, no chemical offenses, etc etc. Yet she has had over 10 charges since… I will never understand. I WILL write a book someday! It really is never ending…

        Thanks again for your reply, was nice to hear some sort of legal feedback. For now we will “Just keep swimming” as a family.

  17. hi i am just wondering a couple qestions. the main one i would like to try to get answers on is.. the courts are terminating my parental rights to my child and his father is gonna have full legal permante custody of him. so i am wondering if his father still wants me in his life, is he allowed to let me be in his life and see him.

  18. My son is 12yrs old. His father was around for his first year and then had very few contact periods for 9 years. We got back together for 2years and now separated for the past year. He has one child he signed over rights too already, he’s been in prison for 3 yrs for meth, he’s an alcoholic, no driver license for 20 yrs, doesn’t work or if he does it don’t last long, 5 DWIs, many fines, n owes back support totaling 25k for 2 other children. There is a restraining order on him from me but does not include my son. The father has not made any contact to talk to or see my son, he lives in the same town as me. My son wants nothing to do with him and hates him because of the fathers drinking and his anger. My question is would his records be enough proof and a year long abandonment be sufficient to terminate his rights.
    Thank you

    1. You can try and terminate his rights…but why? He’s not involved or around, the cost would be thousands of dollars and you may not win? Unless you have a new spouse who wants to adopt I don’t think it’s a smart move to open up that can of worms.

  19. My husband and I are currently having problems with his ex. She has full physical custody but they have joint legal. She refuses to allow my husband any say in Dr,school or sports. She tells him no judge would make her listen. The other problem we have is 2 years ago her husband was charged with 3 counts assault and 9 months ago charged with domestic assault and felony assault by strangulation. He pled guilty in the 1 case to felony assault and guilty to domestic in the other. And there is a safety plan in place by cps for my stepson that states step dad can’t be alone with him. Also last school year alone he had 6.5 absences and 8 tardies. And a letter from the cps worker that states my stepson informed her his mom told him to say it was all a lie and if he didn’t he wouldn’t see her for a very long time and his step dad wouldn’t be allowed back at her home. Since the safety plan has been in effect she has now resorted to leaving him home alone and he just turned 9. My question is, is this a reason to file emergency ex parte or get her rights terminated. We have heard from legal aid it is but another attorney it isn’t and that a judge would laugh it out of court.

    1. Kristina,

      Thank you for the comment. The first problem is very simple, if you have Joint Legal Custody, then the father absolutely has the same right to be involved with the child’s medical and educational settings. (http://www.mncourts.gov/Help-Topics/Child-Custody.aspx) The problem is how aggressive he wants to be? He would probably need to file a motion to either have her held in contempt (not the preferred method) OR file a motion to enforce the order.

      For the next question it’s a little trickier. Her rights won’t be terminated, but if the case in under a CHIPS case (child in need of protective services) then the best route to go would be to show that she has violated the plan, which would be reason to change custody. I’m afraid the best time to file the emergency order would have been when this happened. The problem know is that it has been 2 years ago, you could argue that he isn’t following it but, it might be tough.

      Bottom line is you probably want to think longer term and go with a modification of custody as opposed to some emergency order. Best of luck!

  20. Long story short, I had a one night stand, got pregnant and have chosen to keep the child. The biological father and I have both agreed it is best for many different reasons that he should voluntarily terminate his parental rights. He wants nothing to do with the situation, and I do not want him involved. It would be a toxic environment for both myself and the child. I do not qualify for any aid from the government as a single parent, so I will not be collecting any assistance if a TPR was approved.

    Would this be a simple case to get approved by a judge? — The biological father is not on the birth certificate. Thanks so much!!

    1. Beth, Thanks for the question.

      Short answer is that I think you don’t need to do anything. He didn’t sign the ROP (aka birth certificate) so he very, very few rights (as in none) at this time. He could, I suppose in the future, petition the court for some parenting time and all that, but if doesn’t want to be involved in the child’s life now it’ would be a big undertaking to first get him adjudicated the father then move to terminate his rights I mean massive undertaking, taking thousands of dollars (probably upward of $10K) and you would be in the same position you are right now.

      Best of Luck

  21. Both me and the father of my child want his rights terminated. There is no court order child support due to him not having legal status in the country. He doesn’t see my child nor help finacially and we decided that its best he terminates his rights. My question is if its possible to do this if both parents agree with him terminating his rights and im currently single so i dont have a man willing to adopt my child.

    1. Cindy,

      It depends on the county you are in but from my experience it would be difficult to do. If he is not involved in the child’s life I would simply do nothing as you’ll be in the same position you are now. Good Luck.

  22. Mother was found unfit with one child and taken away ,has had second child taken into foster care (not same father). Father though spent time in jail for assault, will be release soon and has been working with county with this CPS case. one case worker says 12 months in foster care possible. and to look at father for possible choice if moms rights are terminated. Now have different case worker , this one said the decision will be made in next month , (2 weeks) after he is released as to if minor child will be adopted. Mother hasn’t done anything to follow case plan and father is limited until released. can they just skip over Dad?

    1. Short answer is…it depends.

      If mom has rights terminated then by statute they need to look to the other parent, if he is unfit or hasn’t been adjudicated the father or other similar reasons they can permanently place the child with another family.

  23. my children were recently taken by child protective services de to abuse allegations. my 6 year old is in the middle od this investigation and i want to terminate rights to her since she claims she is afraid of me. how do i start this process

    1. Well, if you are in the middle of a CHIPS petition and want to have your rights terminated just don’t do anything the Judge tell you to. If you have an attitude and fail miserably during the CHIPS case they might very well move to a TPR (termination of parental rights) case. It’s not the route I would ever recommend but it’s an option.

      I get this question a lot, that is how to terminate or sign off on your rights, and unfortunately you can’t just decide to quit being mom or dad and sign off on a piece of paper. The court can terminate your rights but that carries with it serious consequences as any future children you have there will be a presumption that you are unfit as a parent. Also, any future custody battles will be very difficult as you’ve been determined by the court to be unfit to parent.

      Bottom line: unless you get the child’s mom or dad’s new spouse to adopt OR if you get a TPR case against you…you will be “stuck” being the parent.

  24. Long story short – 12 year old is autistic, has several behavioral issues (including severe violent tendencies toward family and self) and in serious need of help. This has been a real struggle with the case worker and her biological father (who is my ex and who is basically useless (to be honest), as he doesn’t believe there is anything wrong.) The police have been involved, the courts have been involved regarding treatment, her therapist has recommended programs to help.

    There is both insurance through the ex and medical assistance. Primary insurance will not cover the very much needed treatment for my daughter. Medical insurance will cover but ONLY if I agree to terminate parental rights (is that even legal?!). I want treatment for my child, NOT to give her up! I love my children and I do not understand why I need to give up parental rights to help them! That is only punishment for the parents who are trying and in desperate need of help. I have been struggling for years with these issues and there isn’t anyone who is willing to offer me real help. I am terrified that my daughter is going to cause herself real damage, or hurt her little brother (or worse).

    Do you have any knowledge of whether it is true (and legal) that I would have to terminate my parental rights to receive treatment, covered by MA, for my child?

    1. Interesting question, I suspect there is more to it than these three paragraphs, but generally speaking unless there is a TPR or CHIPS case open you really can’t just voluntarily sign over your rights and terminate, so the request by the insurance that you do so is probably based on confusion of what they really want. In terms of MA covering it, I’ve no idea that’s outside the area of expertise for a family law attorney, sorry.

      Best of luck!

  25. Hello, I’m interested in getting my husband to adopt my eldest son. His biological father hasn’t seen him in 8 years and he hasn’t made contact. When I did try and contact him about rights he refused and just wants his son to have his name. That’s it. I’m concerned about the biological fathers mental health and he is currently in a gang. My husband and I have been married for 4 years and he has been a father to my son since he was 2. We have children together and we are a loving, happy family. I just don’t want this hanging over our head. The biological father is a bad person. Do we have a sound case? What should we do to make it so? He doesn’t pay child support I was afraid to do so because of retaliation from him.

    1. Jennifer,

      Sorry to hear about your situation, I would suggest you don’t spend your money on trying to terminate his parental rights because that might very well backfire and push him into seeing the child. You can use other tactics to accomplish the same thing, such as seeking the child support you’re entitled to. Many times I’ve seen it where a person go after child support, gets it then offers to have the new husband adopt the child and lo and behold the biological father signs off!

      I’d suggest you do talk to a family lawyer and try and get a plan in place if it’s important to you .

      Best of luck.


  26. My friend gave up her rights to her son about 5 years ago because she was abusing drugs and knew she couldn’t be the mother she needed to be for him. Now she is a year sober and wants to be able to see her son, but the father refuses to even let her talk to him. He just recently got married and his new wife adopted their son. She is devastated. Obviously she knew what she was doing when she signed those papers but is it possible for her to ever gain back any custody rights?


  27. Hello I hope I wasn’t to late to ask a question but I’m going to try anyway. My son is 19 months, his biological father has never been in his life ever. There is actually a protective order between me and him. He was told at court that in order to get visitation he needed to go to family court in which he never did. He has been in and out of jail for multiple things including drugs car theft not obeying probation. All in all he isn’t a good guy, I got pregnant at a young age and I grew up and took the responsibility but he still hasn’t had to… I’m just wondering if I would have a case to get his rights taken away.

    1. Thanks for the question, I took a while to get to it but here we go!

      Short answer is if the county is involved in giving you ANY assistance then they will usually oppose it and the odds you’ll get dad’s right terminated are very low. If you have a no contact order and he’s not in his life…well I would ask why go to all the trouble to try and terminate his rights? Usually my advice is to instead focus on having the child be adopted, if and when you get married.

      I know it’s not the answer you wanted, but I’ve been getting this one a lot it seems the courts are viewing this a bit differently lately and they don’t like to terminate a parent’s rights if there is a chance that the poor parent can become a better parent.

  28. Hello, correct to my last post regarding something. He owes more than $10,000 in back child support, not taxes.

  29. Hello,

    I have a 2 1/2 year old and I am wondering how to proceed with filing to terminate her father’s rights. A child support order was enforced, but failed to pay and they were unable to locate him, so Scott County eventually closed the case. The judgement amount was literally minimal because of his lack of work history. He also has two other kids–and two other open child support cases. He owes more than $10,000 in back taxes. He has refused to provide financial support and his I am very concerned about her welfare if something were to happen to me, so I want to ensure that my family would have rights to her guardianship. He has done things illegally in the past–although there are no serious criminal convictions on his record. He also has gang-affiliation and has posted pictures on his social media pages blatantly throwing up gang signs. What would be the best course of action?

    Thank you

    1. Thanks for the email, sounds like a tough position you’re in. Generally, just not paying child support isn’t going to be enough to terminate he father’s parental rights, it’s pretty rare. Then if the child is getting any state assistance, the county will almost certainly oppose the termination as they want the ability to go after him to get reimbursement.

  30. Hi there, I have a situation on my hands.. My daughter will be 5 and ive been married since 2012. Now my daughters real dad all if a sudden randomly lost his memory July 2013, I heard hear say of what happened. Then March 2014 he went crazy, while my daughter was there for the weekend and a police report was even involved. I got ahold of the report, and got a emergency exparte on my daughter. Couple days later we had court already because he wanted custody of her. Judge ruled that out and my exparte took place then they granted a longer one from reading the police report. Again went back to court in May and now he has supervised visits every other Sunday for 5 hours with someone in my family. He has showed up once, he has seen her once since March. We go back in November now to see his progress. Its not court ordered that he sees her and she doesn’t want to see him. We have a guardian ad litem already and my documents of him showing up will weigh heavily on her report.
    Can I do anything about him even being involved? I’ve got to the point where I don’t want child support, I want nothing from him. As horrible as I may sound right now I came to the point of giving up.
    My husband has wanted to take over as daddy for awhile now and I know my daughter and myself would love nothing more.

    1. Hmmm, that’s a tough position to be in. The easiest way to get the father out of the child’s life if the biological father agrees to let your husband adopt. It’s what we call a step-parent adoption and if the father agrees, it’s pretty easy. If he doesn’t agree then it might be able to be done, but it’s a contested adoption and is much more difficult and more costly.

      Best of luck.

  31. Hi, I was just wondering if there was a way to have your paternal rights terminated when your paying child support. My husband’s ex has not allowed us to have the kids in well over a year. The stress has been so difficult on him that he doesn’t want to fight her. Is this possible? Also, we have a child together and that’s part of the reason the ex doesn’t want them around. Also, if rights are terminated are you still responsible for child support?

    1. Thanks for the question, the short answer is generally no, you can’t just ask a Judge to say you’re not dad anymore because the child’s mother and father don’t get along. The only option he might have would be to see if the child’s mother’s new husband wants to adopt, that would end support.

      Best of Luck,

  32. I am the mother to two children with my ex husband. He has not attempted to contact us/them since September 2009. He moved out of state and was then extradited back to MN on stolen property charges. He attempted suicide once again and was put into an inpatient treatment program. As far as I know he is done with treatment and living with his girlfriend and taking care of her child. I am very close with my ex in-laws but the kids and I haven’t seen nor heard from him since 09. Is it possible to have his parental rights removed involuntarily even though my children wouldn’t be adopted by my significant other at this time? I do have full physical and full legal custody that was granted to me during the divorce precedings since he chose to be in contempt. Or is this something that isn’t wise to persue until I am remarried and decide then if I want my future husband to adopt my children?

    1. Leah,

      Thanks for the question, it’s a very common question! The short answer is if had some criminal charges and mental health issues it might be hard to terminate his parental rights based on that. It’s possible, but if he fights it it will be a long (and expensive) fight. Once you get remarried it might be a bit easier to convince him to sign off on his rights and at the same time have your new husband adopt.

      Good luck!

  33. It is a tough decision but it wasn’t that hard after I did a checklist of pros and cons. That’s awfully messed up that I cant just sign my rights away if I want to and if its what is best for both of us. The county only charges me $50 dollars a month for his medical expenses the other $ 350 I pay goes straight to the ex. I know that there is 9 reasons rights can be terminated and that I cover Abandonment, Unfit Parent, and Absent Birth Father. I don’t see why I would have problems getting this done by a judge, but you know more of the legal system than I do

  34. I’ll try keeping this short and hopefully I will hear back soon from you. I’m a disabled veteran who has an almost 2 yr old son. I haven’t seen or had anything to do with him since he was born other than pay my court ordered child support for him. I have been thinking about signing my rights away. I’m curious about what the cost will be for me to give him up and how to go about doing that. The reason i’m giving him up is because i’m going downhill mentally and physically due to injuries while serving and thinking about his mom makes me want to kill myself and I believe he will be much better off with me not in the picture. When he’s an adult he could look me up if im still alive which gives me some peace and solis , she has been living with her current boyfriend for 2yrs now and claims to her friends that he is the father as well as they might be getting married soon due to being possibly pregnant. she is on county help which is why I was forced to pay support even though she has said she doesn’t want it from me. P.S. she also lied to the county about her living arrangements and income so im wondering if I should say something or just let it go when I give up my rights . I cant afford a lot since I know live on my pension and so im trying to figure out the costs. I want whats best for my son but can not be there for him mentally and physically like he needs. which is the main resaons why I want to do this . your advice is much apprectitated and welcome

    1. Justin,

      Well, you’re in a tough spot. I’ll say that this can’t be an easy decision. A couple things I think you should know about your situation, the first being you typically can’t sign your rights away. it’s not always allowed if the child is on county assistance then you absolutely wont be allowed to terminate your parental rights as the County wants you on the hook to help pay and reimburse what the county pays. If you’re ex marries then the new husband will be in a better position to adopt and you can sign off, but not if they are still on assistance.

      It’s a tough spot, but I’m afraid there isn’t much you can do.

  35. if we had a baby when we were under 18. He only stayed around til she was 1 than has seen her maybe 20 times since she was 1-4yrs old. And hasnt seen her ONCE since she was 4 and she is now 7. Can I get his parental rights terminated?

    1. Maybe, but I would ask why would you do that? You’ll need a lawyer, cost will be several thousand dollars, and unless you’re remarried and have a new father to step in and adopt, the Judge will most likely not allow you to just terminate the dad’s rights. Then if you throw on the County and if you are receiving any assistance they will absolutely block the termination. While it might feel good to terminate his right, I don’t think it really benefits you in any way.


  36. My rights were terminated about 12 yrs ago. To make this real short. My daughter has now been causing problems in the home and they want her to stay in the family n I’m the only one willing/ able to do that so her current family wants it that way. Is this even a possibility?

    1. Erica,

      Interesting question. If you’re talking about a CHIPS ( Child in need of protectives services) then it will be up to the county attorney/social worker/and judge. I haven’t seen this situation before, but I suspect those folks will not be very receptive to let you have the child back if your rights were terminated. If this is an out of court issue, then you really can pretty much do what you would like if everyone agrees.

      -Jason Kohlmeyer

      1. There was a chips initially but that was closed when we gave up our parental rights and let the kids be placed with their paternal aunt who no longer wishes to care for my daughter after 13 years…..courts made a great call on that placement. We may have come to a better solution but I’m still curious…..my attorney seems to think if its a mutual agreement we should be ok.

  37. There is no edit comment button, so I’ll just say that the one who is suicidal is the babysitter that the children are left alone with most of the time. Everything else is about their mom

    1. I should fix the edit comment problem! thanks. Now to answer your question:

      Well, that’s a situation you’ve got there. A few basics first, In Minnesota unless the parents are unfit and that’s hard to be, there is a presumption that the kids will stay with the Biological Parents. If they are causing injury to the kids it’s a different story.

      Remember, there is no law that says the kids get to grow up in the Huxtable Household (or Full House, or Leave it to Beaver) While I’ve no doubt there are parents who would do a much better job that is not enough reason to terminate parental rights.

      My suggestion? If you feel the kids need child protective services, give the police or your local social services a call and report the issues. It’s tough to do, but if you feel the kids are in danger it sounds like you should.

      Best of luck in this tough situation.


  38. I need some advice here and my comment will be very long so apologies in advance. My boyfriend (23) and his wife (21) got divorced earlier this year. They have 3 children, a boy (3) and 2 girls (2, 1) my boyfriend gets the kids every weekend. Whenever we get the kids, they show several signs of physical, emotional, and mental neglect. The boy has severe eczema, and both his skin and his reaction when I put the lotion on him shows that she is not doing this for him. He will be 4 in a few months and shows no signs of being potty trained or even that the mother has started trying. The children always come over filthy. When the mother is not working, she’s going out. She brings over various men and as soon as she breaks up with one, she moves in another one, which im sure is very confusing to those poor kids. She gives them candy 3 times a day at least. Her babysitter is her sister. The kids are left with her most of the time. She is sn extremely emotional and unstable woman who has tried to kill herself several times in the last couple months. She used to drive the kids around without a driver’s license and she used to drive around the 3 year old without a booster seat. She is also very emotionally volatile and almost every interaction with her results in violence, screaming, and threats. That being said, their father is also neglectful. Its not as severe but is still disconcerting. He leaves them in wet diapers for a long time because he cannot afford the amount of diapers they go through. He is also not working with them to ensure their development is on track, for example potty training, reading to them, and he does not put the eczema lotion on the boy either. As much as it hurts to say, I believe the best thing for these poor kids is to be taken from both parents and placed in a stable home. It is not their fault that their parents were so foolish as to put themselves in this situation and I do not believe they should have to suffer for their parents’ idiocy in having so many kids in such a short time at such young ages. Is there anything that can be done for these poor children or are they stuck in this situation? Any and all advice is appreciated. Thank you so much

  39. Just curious about something. I have a step daughter her mother and I are married. We have been together married for 2 yrs and we dated for 2 so it’s 4 rs total that the little one has been with me. Her birth father is currently in jail with a 609.222.1 (I assume that is subdivision 1 … I’m no attorney). I want to adopt her and I have been saving for some time to do that. I just found out that i can do it for less so I want to go for it!! the question is regarding the biofather. with the fact that he has sent her 1 or 2 cards in 6 yrs incarceration. Plus the fact that he has a history of drug related issues (not sure how much is on record) does any of that put him into the abandoned or potential threat box? I’m wondering if this is an open and shut case or if I need to get some muscle behind me and if so why? Btw when his sister or someone in his family saw in my wife’s facebook page that i was in the picture back 4 yrs ago he made it clear he was not in agreement, regarding her adoption, to his sister an then to my then girlfriend (wife now). Yet he never amped up any contact with the daughter. He is now due out in 1.5 months .. the middle of next month.

    Sorry for the verbosity of this post I’m just curious.

    1. Well, this is a question I tend to get a lot. My short answer is that you need to get him to to agree to adopt. Why? Why not just file a TPR case against him? For two reasons. 1) that the odds of success are very low. If dad says he wants to be a father once he’s out of prison/jail most Judges are going to really give him the benefit of the doubt and not terminate and 2) It is insanely cheaper to go the adoption route. Assuming you can get an evidentiary hearing and the Judge doesn’t just deny the motion prior to a contested “trial” you’re looking at a motions filed, a day of trial, plus prep time and writing detailed findings and a memorandum of law, probably close to $10,000 and the odds of winning are low.

      Can you do it yourself? Well, you CAN in the sense it is possible to file the proper motions, the same way it’s POSSIBLE to drill into your own tooth and remove a cavity. It’s just it will be messy, painful and you won’t like the results.

      I would suggest talking to him about the benefit of signing the adoption papers (he won’t have to pay child support, insurance, etc) and see what happens.

      Good luck!


  40. Hello,

    I have a child where the father has not been paying his obligated child support for the last year. Also was ordered to get health insurance for my child and pay all medicals that occur. Since my son was born his father has not been in the picture. He comes and goes from his life. He was allowed to see him twice a week per our agreement in court and does not. He sees him maybe twice a month at most and goes 1-3 months at a time if not more without seeing him. He will randomly let me know he wants to see him but disappears or I get random texts demanding to see him and when I try to set something where it would work for me based on my schedule he gets mad. During the time that he is not around I do not know what he is up to. Nor do I trust him The few times that he did take my son for the day he would leave my son at his mother’s or sister’s houses and I would have to call everyone to find out where my son was so I could pick him up. I do have full legal and physical custody of my child. I am working at a good job and have been paying for my sons health insurance. My son is happy at home and it terrifies me to have his dad start to tell me that he wants to bring the police to my house to see my son because he has our old court order to see him. He has not been contacting me until recently this week and I do not trust him since he showed up at my parents house on hours he knows I work for my son. I have been raising my son and do no think he is a fit parent because he has not been around, seems stable, cannot have health insurance for my son or even bother to ever ask how he is doing since he disappears mostly. I want to know what I could do to terminate his parental rights.

    Sorry for the long comment, but I would appreciate any feedback on what steps I could take.

    Thank you 🙂

    1. Rosa,

      Thanks for the comment. The short answer is that yes you could try and terminate his rights..but you need good cause and it’s highly unlikely a Court in Minnesota would grant it in this case. Unfortunately, It’s pretty common where one parent doesn’t exactly follow the order and the Court can’t do much about making a parent see his or her child. It’s frustrating, but it would be very difficult to get the court to cut him out of the child’s life, especially if he tries to see the child on occasion.

      A suggestion that I have is to go back and “tweak” the past court order. It sounds like you didn’t have an attorney and if that’s the case there are a lot of little fixes such as putting a 15 minute late provision in that means if he is more than 15 minutes late he forfeits that parenting time. There are some other safeguards that can be done too.

      Jason Kohlmeyer

  41. How do I start the process of letting my fiancé adopt my daughter, if the father of her has not seen her since fathers day 2012, has ran from the county trying numerous times to file child support on him, and he tells people she is not his, yet refuses to take a paternity test. He is agreeing to sign over his rights and we will talk of a contact order. But where do I start. they don’t have papers for me at the court house to just pick up and fill out.

    1. Thanks for the comment, as you have found out doing an adoption is not just filling out a form or two, it is a bit complex. For example, if the case isn’t handled correctly you might be stuck doing a homestudy which can cost upwards of $4,000. Also, most Judges that I know of would not approve an adoption if you don’t have a lawyer because it would imply you couldn’t afford one and if you can’t afford a few thousand dollars for an adoption attorney then you can’t afford to adopt a child. Also you mention the county, if you are receiving any assistance (Medical assistance, cash, food stamps, etc..) the county will oppose the adoption, which will end the case.

      Also, I notice in your case you mention Fiance which of course means you’re not married to him yet. While not specific in the law, most judges that I practice in front of would much prefer you two to be married before they approve the adoption.

      So, to answer your question how do you start the process? You’ll need to go to an experienced family law attorney who has handled step-parent adoptions before, it’s not a hard case but it’s one that can be very easily screwed up. Best of luck.

      Jason Kohlmeyer

  42. Is it possible to have somebodys rights terminated if they are paying child support but they havent seen the children in over a year and they dont try to have any contact or inquire about the children at all?

    1. I suppose it is possible, but as a practical matter it’s pretty tough to convince a judge to terminate a father’s rights in Minnesota unless you can prove that he is unfit and it’s in the child’s best interests. If you get married it’s much easier for a step-parent to try and adopt.

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