Terminating Parental Rights in Wisconsin

As a divorce attorney, I have been asked many times by clients if they can terminate the parental rights of the other parent.  I have also been asked by a parent whether they can voluntarily terminate his or her parental rights.  Usually, this question is posed out of frustration or anger at the other parent.  Or, one of the parents does not want to pay child support so they make this request.

In Wisconsin, the termination of parental rights of only one parent at the request of the other generally cannot happen unless there is an accompanying step-parent adoption.  In other words, the parental rights of a parent cannot be terminated unless there is a new parent ready and willing to step into that role.  Wisconsin’s policy is that a child is entitled to have two legal parents to support them.

And, the willingness of a step-parent to adopt is not enough to trigger a termination of parental rights if the other parent does not agree.  There are necessary grounds to be established for an involuntary termination of parental rights.  For example, the most common ground is abandonment which is defined as a failure to visit or communicate for a period longer than three (3) months, unless good cause is shown as to why the parent failed to visit or communicate (i.e. denial or interference of periods of placement).  Other grounds are failure to assume parental responsibility, abuse, incest, sexual assault, homicide or attempted homicide of the other parent and a parent who has a continuing disability.

Even if all of the above criteria are met, the court must then consider other factors when deciding to terminate parental rights.  These factors include what is in the best interests of the child, the child’s family relationships (i.e. grandparents),  the wishes of the child and whether the child can enter into a new stable family situation as a result of the termination.

Recently, a reader pointed out to us that a termination of parental rights can occur without a step-parent adoption.  While this is true, it is a rare situation where there are usually extreme or exigent circumstances such as when abuse, severe neglect or a serious crime against the custodial parent or child is involved.  Also, if the state is involved, as in where a parent or parents have been deemed to be unfit for an extended period of time, a termination of parental rights is sometimes granted.  These are not typically situations, however, which generally impact upon divorce or family matters.  We are not experts in these other types of cases and, therefore, cannot provide any further information.  If you believe your situation falls under one of these categories, we encourage you to seek the advice of an experienced attorney in that area.

Permanently terminating a parent’s rights to his or her children is a serious and life-changing event for both parent and child.  Frustration with your ex-spouse or an unwillingness to see your children or pay child support is not enough to trigger this most serious of actions.  Under Wisconsin law, the rights of the child are paramount and a child is entitled to two legal parents.  This is true regardless of the feelings of one parent towards the other and regardless if a parent has no interest in the child(ren) and/or does not want to pay child support.

Please see our other blog post on this for additional information:  https://wisconsinfamilylaw.info/2016/07/12/termination-of-parental-rights-frequently-asked-questions

-Teri M Nelson

171 thoughts on “Terminating Parental Rights in Wisconsin

  1. My childs father is willing to sign over his parental rights to my new husband. He hasn’t seen our daughter in almost a year and isn’t current with his child support payments. I would like to terminate his rights but I’m not sure how to go about doing this. I don’t feel I need a lawyer because he is 100% willing to terminate. What steps do I have to take to get this started?

    • Hello. Thank you for your question. If you are in Wisconsin and would like to do a step-parent adoption, the first thing you need to do is to obtain a custody study. This is required in Wisconsin. You can call any social service agency in your area. For example, in Milwaukee, there is Children Service Society or Lutheran Counseling and Family Services. It should be listed in the phone book under Adoption Services or Social Service and Welfare Organizations. Some agencies will handle the paperwork for you, some won’t. You might want to call around to get different quotes and find out what they will do for you. There is a fee but I am not sure what they are charging now. It has been a long time since I did an adoption. Good luck to you.

      • Thank you. This is more information than I’ve gotten anywhere else.
        How do I go about terminating his rights though? Like I said, he’s willing but I don’t know how to go about starting the process.

        • You do everything at the same time. The court will not terminate his rights without an accompanying step-parent adoption because they do not want to leave your child with no legal father to support him/her. So, the process is concurrent with the adoption. The Petition to Terminate Parental Rights is filed and heard at the same time as the Petition for Step-parent Adoption and one won’t be granted without the other. Again, however, before you can even get to the legal proceedings, you must have a custody study done.

      • I understand you said everything is done at the same time and that we need to have a custody study done. That is fine I have a husband who is willing to adopt but my question is…. What forms do we have to fill out? Is their any forms that I have to file that need my sons fathers signature? Do we file the forms with the clerk of courts? Do you know the step by step proccess on how I can terminate my sons fathers rights? (he is agreeing to terminate rights)

        • I’m sorry but I can’t give you legal advice. Every county is different and each county has their own procedures and forms. However, I will tell you that a custody study is generally required. You should contact an adoption agency in your county to determine all of the necessary steps and costs. They will usually assist you in the exact steps. Most attorneys offer free consultations so a consultation with an adoption attorney is also a good idea. Good luck.

  2. I just found out I’m pregnant with and on and off casual partner that I’ve had for the last year. I told him and the first thing he said was that he would ‘sign off his rights’ if I had the child. Is it that easy to get out of taking responsibility and pay child support? If he doesn’t want to be in his child’s life that’s one thing but can he really just ‘sign off his rights’ and not pay child support because he doesn’t want the child?

    • Thank you for your comments. No, he can’t just sign off the rights to his child just because he doesn’t want to pay child support. First, if anyone would petition to terminate his rights, it must be you, not him. Second, there must be an accompanying step-parent adoption. The State will not leave a child without a legal father to support him/her. As you said, if he doesn’t want to be in the child’s life, that is his choice but he must pay child support pursuant to the law in Wisconsin.

      Good luck to you.

  3. My ex-husband has not paid any child support or had anything to do with our son in over 2 years. IHe tells me our son is mine and he wants nothin to do with our loser son. What if anything can I do?

    • Of course there is. You can take him back to court either to establish/modify child support or to find him in contempt for failing to pay if there already is an order. You can’t force him to see your child but that is probably best if that is his attitude towards your son. You should consult with an experienced family law attorney in your area. In the alternative, contact the Child Support Enforcement Agency in the county in which you live. It is their job to establish and/or collect child support. They will do it for free, after you sign up for their services. There generally is a fee for that but it is usually around $50. After that, there are no further costs to you. Good luck.

  4. My ex wife has made it abundantly clear she wants nothing to do with me and has alienated the children, using many false allegations which in WI automatically prevent visitation. These have been continuous and almost predictably strategic. The children are now 8 and 9 and state verbally whenever I try contact with them despite a number of years trying to enforce orders. That I beat them, leave bruises and hit them in their privates. They also state that they hate me with a passion, and I have never ever successfully been able to exercise any rights as a father.

    I have never ever done anything wrong to these children and they are now apparently or so I am told under intense therapy. While it is alleged that I have abused them, despite never doing so. I even had a judge plainly state so, Regardless, I am at a loss as to how without any money to continue to fight both the many state agencies she can call on, and pay the fees that each of these allegations cost me. She has maintained all along that if I give up my rights she will stop making these allegations up. I believe for the sake of the children I should give up my rights, as I am not going to see them as they tell me, until they are eighteen, the previous psychologist stated that I would be lucky If I ever saw them again anyway.

    • I am sorry for your troubles and the situation in which you find yourself. It is very sad. I hope you have the assistance of good counsel.

      Unfortunately, the court will most likely still not allow you to terminate your parental rights without an accompanying adoption. You can certainly try but the only way around this is to have her petition to terminate your parental rights based on child abuse. Even then, it may be difficult and you would have to not object to the abuse allegations.

      You should consult with an experienced attorney in your area to find out what the judge(s) do in this situation.

  5. My ex-boyfriend is doing the very minimum to have contact in case it takes a while until I serve him adoption papers because I don’t have a wedding date yet and he might get granted fifty-fifty custody. The only reason and time he makes an effort to see my son is when child support is after him for not paying; then he throws in his statement that he wants to see his son. He is not working so he hopes that if he ever gets granted fifty-fifty I will have to pay him child support because he is unemployed and I work full time. My question is that because he doesn’t care to be in my son’s life nor do I want him to be in my son’s life because he is not fit for society as is, can I petition for him to sign his rights over to a family member of mine because I’m not married yet?

  6. I have a niece that is 2 years old. Her mother hasn’t seen her in about a year. And my half brother hasn’t seen her in about 3 months. They are both very unfit parents. They both have been in and out of jail for drugs, alcohol, and other reasons. My niece is currently with my mother who is also not the best role model. She has also been in and out of jail. I am 26, have a good job, well educated, not married, have never been in jail, come from a wealthy family, and I’m very willing to take my niece. What can I do?

    • Thank you for your interest in our blog and your comment. You should meet with an attorney who is experienced in children’s court cases and guardianships. Your best bet is probably to call social services and advise them of your concerns as well as your willingness to step in as guardian. The only other option is to seek a guardianship. However, guardianships are very difficult to obtain, especially if you do not have the backing of social services. An attorney can discuss all of your options with you, though, and advise you of your chances for success in the county in which you live.

  7. My boyfriend has been wanting to sign off his rights on his son, and was denied legal assistance. is it even possible for him to do so voluntarily? How would he go about it?

    • He can only do so if (a) the mom agrees and (b) her new spouse adopts the child. Otherwise, he cannot step away from his parental rights and/or responsibilities.

  8. Hello,
    i had my daughter 3 months ago and me and her dad broke up not too long ago, he was at first in her life and helping me but then he turned the tables and went back to his first childs mother, he doesnt help me take care of her because she doesnt accept my child. He said that he will sign over his rights, is it that easy and simple to sign over his rights? and do i have to consent to it because if so, i will not give him or his girlfriend that satisfaction.

    • If you have not yet taken him to court to establish paternity, you will need to do that in order to obtain child support. However, keep in mind that by doing that, he will also then have custody and placement rights. He has no legal rights or obligations towards your child until he has been formally adjudicated the father. Therefore, there would be no reason for him to “sign off of his rights.”

      If you do take him to court, he cannot stop it nor does he need to consent. The only thing he can do to be difficult is to request DNA testing to confirm he is the father. After he is formally adjudicated, he cannot sign off on his rights unless (a) you consent AND (b) there is another father waiting to take his place (a stepparent adoption). The courts will not leave a child without a legal father just because he doesn’t want the responsibility.

      If you decide to start paternity proceedings, contact the Child Support Enforcement Agency in your county. They will assist you with that for a nominal fee.

  9. my girlfriend and I broke up a few months before she had our son. she never told me she had him kept everything hush hush I just got served paternity papers, is it possible that I can get 50/50 custody or only visitation since we weren’t married?

    • Absolutely! All things being equal and with no significant issues, there is no reason why you shouldn’t have shared placement just because you weren’t married to the mother. There are a variety of factors the court must consider when making a shared placement determination. Depending on his age, though, you may have to slowly work you way up to more substantial placement. You can’t expect to be given equal placement right away if that child doesn’t know you. You need to ask the court to order at least some placement right away so you can get to know your son and start working towards that goal. For the best results, you should hire an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible. Good luck to you.

  10. My husband fathered a child with another woman before we were together. My husband has had full custody and physical placement of the him since he was 2 years old. We have not heard from the child’s mother basically since the court for custody and he is now almost 7 years old. My husband and I would really like to have me adopt him so that I have rights to him. I have been acting as his mother since my husband and I have been together (since the child was 1). We have no idea where his birth mother is or how to contact her. Do you think I have a chance at this?

    • You absolutely have a chance at adopting. In fact, this is exactly the situation which is made for step-parent adoptions. As far as finding her, all you have to do is make an “good faith” effort and the courts usually accept that even if you can’t find her. I would contact a social service agency who handles adoptions in your area to inquire about and begin the process. You can find one in the yellow pages under Adoption Services. Good luck to you!

  11. Hi, my daughter is 6yrs old and her biological father Has seen her 2 times because I told the time to take her to him, 8hrs away. He has not given her a card, a present, or even called on holidays or birthdays. Out of the 6yrs, he’s paid a little support. But, my fiancé has been raising her as his own since she was 3months old. Been there for everything, he is the one she calls dad.
    My question is how hard or is it possible for him to adopt her? We’re not married and I don’t even know if it’s possible to have him adopt. Any advice? Her biological dad would be more than willing to sign them over. We’re not married because of health insurance reasons. My daughter has health issues. Any help or advice is appreciated, thank you.

    • Thank you for your question and comments. Your fiance would only be able to adopt after you are married. Once you are married, it sounds as if it would be a fairly simple matter to adopt. All of the criteria are present here. If he doesn’t adopt, then you certainly should prepare a will naming him as her legal guardian if you pass away. This wouldn’t necessarily prevent bio dad from arguing he should have her but it sets up your legal intentions at least and gives your fiance the legal grounds to fight for her. Good luck to you.

  12. In the case of voluntarily TPR with an adopting father waiting, is there any way that the court will grant the termination if the Mother is not yet married to the father with intent to adopt. I am in a process now trying get something like that done, and don’t want to waste the time and money filing a petition of the court is going to say that the mother and intent to adopt father most be married

    • It is extremely unlikely. The courts want a child to have a stable parental situation. The first step, however, is to have a home study done. You need to contact a social services agency in your area (look under adoptive services in the phone book). They must do an investigation and background check and issue a report to the court as to recommendations for the adoption. Once you speak with them, they gave give you a better idea as to whether they will recommend or whether the court would approve your petition.

  13. Hi.
    My sons are 12 and 10 and their biological father has only been in their lives for a total of 3 years (2 of which we lived in MI with him for; 2009-2011). When I decided to move back to WI, he didn’t challenge me, he just wanted me to leave my car and I could take the kids. Since then, he has only been in contact with them 3 times, and that’s because they contacted him. I am getting married on March 1, 2014 and my fiance wants to adopt them, but their bio dad refuses. He’s only paid $200 in child support (he’s over $11,000 behind) and during our divorce, gave up any type of custody/visitation, giving me sole legal custody and placement. My ex-husband is known to do drugs and I know my sons would not be safe with him; they don’t want anything to do with him and want to be adopted by my fiance. My sons also have special needs; my 12 year old has a form of autism and my 10 year old has Type 1 diabetes. My ex’s family also has nothing to do with my sons; my family (who live here in WI) are the ones that have been involved from the beginning and that my children are extremely close to. Since their bio dad is refusing to sign off his rights, but has no contact with them, what are my chances of his rights being terminated so my fiance can adopt them? Thank you!

    • There are specific ground for an involuntary termination of parental rights in Wisconsin. You should consult with an attorney who is experienced in this area to determine if your situation qualifies. Good luck.

    • There are specific ground for an involuntary termination of parental rights in Wisconsin. You should consult with an attorney who is experienced in this area to determine if your situation qualifies. Good luck.

  14. My husband and I have 2 small children. He just found out that he has a 5 year old daughter out of a one night stand. We live out of state from the child (she lives in WI) and barely knows the mother. Our other issue is, my husband suffers from PTSD. He has JUST been diagnosed and is just starting the process of therapy and meds to alleviate the symptoms of this. He was fired from his job and can’t even being to focus on how to handle this situation. Any advice? I understand he can not voluntarily give up his rights, but what about if the mother chooses too? What about mental state? Is that an issue? Thank you for your advice.

    • Wow! Tough situation. I am not quite sure what you are asking. He certainly can give up his parental rights if both parties agree. As to the rest, I would need more facts to determine exactly what it is you are asking and what the answer is. Is there even an action pending? If not, there isn’t much to worry about at this point from a legal perspective. If so, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney in the county in which the action is pending to discuss the facts and all of his options. Good luck.

  15. My ex is trying to have my rights terminated the session went against her I kept my rights now I’m in a appeal I would like to know if I may have my rights terminated I got a lawyer but he is up in the air with everything she left before she told me she was pregnant we lived in fl. At the time of conseption and she moved to with for the birth we were in contact up until October 23 2013 she cut off contact and is now saying I didn’t support her during pregnancy I don’t know the statue on that and would like to know my chances of getting my son she is also trying to adopt him out

    • I’m not entirely sure what your question is and this is a complicated situation. Your best bet is to either listen to your attorney or if he/she isn’t sure, obtain new counsel who is experienced in this area. Good luck to you.

  16. I’m not sure if my comment came through so my apologies for any duplications.

    My situation is similar to many who have noted their stories so far. My question is more about state to state adoptions. My daughter was born in WI. My marriage and divorce to her father happened in WI as well but I’ve lived in WA with my daughter since she was about 2 (she is now 14). My ex husband has never had visitation, has never called, sent a card or gift, nor has ever had any relationship with her in any manner. I am now remarried and my husband, daughter & I would like to move forward with adoption.

    What I don’t know is if we have to do the adoption through WI? The divorce and parenting plan is through WI family courts but the marriage and our residence is in WA. What is the best route to take? Thank you for your advice.

  17. My ex wants to voluntarily terminate his rights. I am in 100% agreement with this. I am engaged, and when I do get married my fiancé plans on adopting her. My question is this, is there any way my ex can voluntarily terminate his rights even if I am not married if we both agree on the termination of his rights?

    • Generally, the courts will not allow a termination without an accompanying step-parent adoption because they do not want to leave the child without a legal father in the interim. Sorry.

  18. I am a father trying to maintain contact with the children of my former marriage. I posted once regarding the issues I was facing. I spoke to the GAL appointed by the judge. She basically told me that even if the mother was using the way the system is constructed, whether she rules in my favor or not, She explained that the situation according to WI law and the way it is practiced is always for the mother to continue to interfere with custody as long as she is able to make false allegations or convince the children to state things that are not true or act as gatekeeper on visitation issues or contact..

    In which case the state will always investigate by mandate and I will not see the children until this is cleared and then by default the court will rule that the children will require a long time of supervised visitation until a professional who must be paid fees authorizes the children are no longer estranged or that the children are not abused.

    The previous GAL forced a reduction in parenting time by representing the mother in court on a separate issue regarding placement and told me that she was going to change the custody arrangement based on the mother getting a new job,and when I went to court the judge told me despite my objections that he will do it by Fiat because he can. I stated that it was not right and that the GAL should not be representing the mother in court as well as the children it is unethical. GAL stated outside the court that I should allow the mother to adopt the children to her new husband as that would be the best option for me, and the court evaluator stated that I will always have problems if I do not agree to every other weekend. Is that normal ?

    The current court recommended I go through the child therapists that the mother is using, but I have never been able to get an appointment other than some initial details of the children’s progress and the therapists keep changing as well as well as the schools..The first GAL even phoned the then therapist while I was present with the mother to tell her to not treat the children for sexual abuse or any abuse whatever that means.

    One court ruled that I was an ineffective father, because I could not get the children on a visitation, Along with ordering that I have no input into their education or any medical issues only the mother. The new court ruled that I am too rigid in trying to enforce the court order as it stands and recommends I use therapists. to resolve the problem.

    The last attorney I used stated that the law is unfair to males in general and stated that after the false allegations are made the procedure was to have supervised visitation to which I complied and I became suspicious of his motives when he stated that ‘we’ thought it was impossible for you to perform the stipulation and afford the costs, and I am currently having no luck getting therapists involved as she keeps changing them..

    Any suggestions on what to do next. I have no part in creating the problem other than making a bad choice in marriage but that is not the children’s fault neither and they should not be made to suffer because of those choices. I did not divorce my children..

    • I’m sorry but there is no way that I can give you any advice or information your situation without having all of the facts. It sounds as if this is a long-standing case with a lot of history. You need to talk with an experienced family law attorney in your area to go through everything with you to give you a better idea of what you should do and the outcomes you may face. Good luck.

  19. My friend has been in prison most of his life. However he was recently released. He received papers stating that he is the father of a girl that will be turning 18 in June. The mother never made him aware of the fact that he could have been the father or even attempted to contact him. Now she wants to take him to court for child support because the guy she told was the dad found out he wasn’t. Can they make him pay child support back to the birth? I feel like if the mother withheld him from trying to have a relationship and lied about it he shouldn’t have to go back and pay for her dumb choices. He lives in Wisconsin. What do you think he should do or what options does he have?

    • The law in Wisconsin used to allow for retroactive child support in these cases but it was changed a while ago. They can only order child support back to the date he was notified he was the father. However, it doesn’t matter where he lives, it matters where the mother and child lives. Also, if she is graduating high school in June, it is a moot issue since his child support obligation would end when she turns 18 anyway. Your friend should seek the assistance of an experienced family attorney for the best advice.

      • Do you know when that law was established and do you know the statue.? Again we are in the state of Wisconsin. He would like to bring it up when he goes to court just in case. As the mother has contacted him stating she is going to make sure he pays her every penny due if it takes him the rest of his life.

        • The statute is: 767.(4), Wis. Stats. and specifically says “Liability for past support of the child is limited to support for the period after the day on which the petition in the action is filed unless a party shows that he or she was induced to delay the commencement of the action. There are definitions and factors in the rest of the statute which addresses “induced to delay”. Your friend should consult with an attorney.

  20. My sons father wants to sign his rights off. He said that he cannot financially support him and he is to stressed. He also asked if my boyfriend can adopt him. Is that possible if we are not married? My boyfriend loves and takes care of my son as his own and he is willing to take on the responsibility. What can I do?

    • I wouldn’t worry too much about your son’s father. It is his dilemma. Many people feel like they can’t pay child support but that is their obligation when they father a child. I am sure it is financially stressful for you to have to support your child too. As far as your specific question is concerned, no your boyfriend cannot adopt your son without being married to you first. Sorry.

  21. Hello,
    I am wondering if parental rights even need to be terminated in the case of no paternity being established. At this point none has been established and my son turned two in March. I am married and my husband would like to adopt but I am confused if there is a need to deal with any parental rights termination if no father figure has been there nor has any paperwork been filed regarding custody.

    Thank You

    • Yes, parental rights always need to be terminated. Even if there is no adjudication of paternity yet, the father could file a request at any time and, if he is the father, he would be adjudicated. Therefore, he has parental rights, whether they are current or future, which need to be terminated. In order to adopt, you should contact a social services agency in your area that handles adoptions. They can walk you through all of the steps and answer all of your questions. A custody study is required in every adoption so an agency needs to be involved anyway. Good luck to you.

  22. The father of my child is constantly upset by me having a new boyfriend, and feels threatened by a new guy being a part of my life including our son’s. He regularly tells me he can’t handle being a dad and would give up his rights, avoids our son for days, acts unstable… then told me he will move to another state and start a new life because of the emotional toll.
    My new boyfriend and i have been dating less than a year, and as much as he likes my son and cares about him, his intentions are not to adopt. However, i feel my ex is causing a huge stir by threatening to leave for good. It happens everytime our son talks about my new bf. And he is pulling away from him day by day.
    I want him to either man up and help raise our son while getting over the fact that i have a new boyfriend. ..or if it gets any more stressful, as the poor child senses and probably knows a lot, it might be in the best interest of our son that he makes his word good and goes – but I’m not pushing the latter.

    What can i bring up to family courts to figure out what we can do. We dont have a set placement/visitation schedule, as my ex gets our son based around his changing work schedule. He had me sign a refusal form for child support (stupid but he had me locked in fearful threats)

    • I would suggest that you meet with an experienced family law attorney who can take a look at your current court orders and all of the facts of your situation to let you know what all of your options are. Most attorneys have free consultations. I cannot give you specific legal advice, especially without all of the facts, so I cannot help you with your situation through this website. Good luck to you.

  23. my daughter just turned 2 and was the result of a very physically abusive relationship. Her father has never met her and has been incarcerated since she was 5 weeks old for assault and has a long history of assault including strangulation/suffocation on his own mother. He is currently in prison until oct 2015 and I have a restraining order against him. My question is can I file paperwork to terminate his parental rights? Please advise. Thank you in advance for your help !

    • Usually the court will require an accompanying step-parent adoption but, in your situation, they may allow a termination. In the alternative, if you were never married, he has no legal rights and if he tries to request that, the courts may not allow it as not being in your daughter’s best interest. However, it would be best to terminate his rights if possible. You should consult with an attorney to determine your best option. Good luck.

  24. My 4 year old son was born in TN, He and I reside and have resided in WI for almost 3 years while his Bio-dad was in prison in CT. His father is now released and has been since novemeber of last year but has not paid anything in childsupport, the court order stands at 0 because he refuses to fill out the paperwork for his employment and report it to the state of CT. WI has established employment multiple times but because it has to be done through CT court and he isnt co-operating nothing is being done. He hasnt seen his son in almost 4 years, and has not provided in anyway before during or after prison. is there anyway I can remove his rights if he volunteers without the step parent adoption? Can the step parent be a same sex partner legally married to me?

    • Unfortunately, these are all very complicated questions which I am unable to answer in a blog post. You should consult with an experienced family law attorney who can give you some guidance and advice on these issues. Good luck.

  25. I wanna know wat i can do about terminating my ex’s rights though he isn’t on the birth certificate he’s done nothing for my baby…he harasses me and my family on top of that he threatens me and he also does drugs and drinks ….I don’t want him around he’s never been or done anything for my baby…..he puts everything before my child….my child sees him as a stranger he don’t know him…I will not put my child thru misery and heartache of bringing a stranger into his life

    • You should consult with an experienced family law attorney who can review the facts of your case and give you a more definite answer. Based on the above, I do not have enough facts to be able to answer your question.

  26. My son and the baby’s mom split when baby was just a couple months old. She became abusive, pretty positive she suffered from post partum. She would not get help, has not yet. They have split custody, placement, Friday to Friday, she asked him to keep baby, 17 months, til Sunday so she could move, yet again, 4 th time in less than 6 months. She has no phone and has not contacted him as to when she wants to get him back. The hard part is she said she was moving this weekend but was seen out partying running around half naked telling everyone how drunk she was.
    My son recently became engaged and they live together.
    Does he have any resources or what can he do?

    • If he already has been to court and legally declared the father (adjudication), he needs to file a Motion for sole custody and primary placement. This will protect both him and the child from her trying to enforce the prior order. She could come back at any time to do that unless he has it changed. If he hasn’t been officially adjudicated, he should do that ASAP. He should consult with an experienced family attorney immediately.

      If you are asking whether he has enough grounds to terminate her parental rights, the answer is no. And, even if he did, he would need to be married so his new wife could adopt his child.

  27. Can I just ask for a bit of clarification here? You say that parental rights cannot be terminated unless there is a step-parent available to fill the role of second parent… Is this true even if the parent is 1) abusive, 2) has not paid child support in two years, 3) has not seen or even been in contact with the children in a year and a half?

    It seems to me as though that person is already not a parent. So, why would the court insist on there being a second parent available to fill his role after the termination?

    • Each situation is different and the courts will sometimes grant a termination of rights without a step-parent adoption. However, that rarely occurs. You must keep in mind that a child is entitled to have 2 parents – even if one is a bad parent. After all, things might change. The parent may win the lottery, for example. Or, they may die and the child would have inheritance rights. In order to determine whether your case would qualify for a termination of parent rights, you should seek the advice of an attorney experienced in this area.

  28. I’m located in wisconsin, my 14 year old daughter is out of control, been in and out of treatment for 2 years. She is violent and has threatened my life. She has also made unfounded accusations against me to police (which police knew were lies). I cannot have her on my life under these circumstances. Can I terminate my parental rights?

    • Unfortunately, not. You brought her into the world and you still have an obligation to support her. You do not need to have her live with you. You also certainly don’t need to see her or exercise any placement. However, you cannot then make the leap to cutting her off entirely. If you have further concerns, you should discuss this in detail with an experienced family law attorney.

  29. My son father has not been in my son life for 4 years..my son is now 5. The father never showed up to court so paternity was defaulted. I get child support from his settlement. He just moved back to Wisconsin few months ago. I tried letting my son see him and he just couldnt grasp the concept and responsibility so I stopped letting him see my son. He has now filed papers for termination of parental rights. …can he do this? He doesnt want anything to do with my son now…will I not get child supoort if he is granted this?

    • Hello- No, he will not be allowed to terminate his parental rights unless (a) you agree and (b) there is a step-parent adoption. If that was the case, everyone who didn’t want to pay child support would be able to do it. It would be chaos! You should probably consult with an experienced family law attorney in your county, however, just to ease your mind. Make sure you attend the hearing as well to state your objections.

  30. hello, my sons father abandoned me when he found out I was pregnant, he has never seen my son or care for him, also say that to him my son doesn’t exist, until he started paying child support he started threating me saying that if I don’t stop child support hes going to try to get some custody of my child, he also offer to sign over hes parental rights to my husband who has been taking care of my son, but I need the child support money, but I don’t want my ex to take my son away ( he’s only 3 yrs old) he lives in Pennsylvania and I don’t trust him at all. my question is… now that he said he’s going to try to get some custody because I don’t let him sign over he’s rights so he can stop paying support… how much custody can he actually get? or could I had him sign over hes rights to my husband but still get support? or does the child support completely stops once my husband adopt him? I would love to have my husband as my son legar parent, but I don’t want to give my ex the satisfaction of stop paying child support because that’s all he cares.. hes money. Thanks in advanced.. I need some advice

    • You should consult with an experienced family law attorney in your area to go through the exact facts of your situation in order to answer your questions. There are many other factors which you have not provided and it is impossible to do so in a forum such as this. Good luck.

  31. My daughter was born almost 2 years ago. Her father was never there for me during the pregnancy and after she was born, he ditched us in the hospital. He hasn’t been around for much of her life. The first week would be the only time he was actually around her for more than a mere couple of hours.

    He rarely sees her. He only sees her if I make contact with him in regards to actually spending time with her. I have stopped doing that because I am done going out of my way to make it easier for him to see her. He still texts me EVERYDAY and none of it has to deal with our daughter. (A lot of it is trying to get back with me, and how I am doing and what is new in his life, etc.)

    I am now engaged to a wonderful man who wants to adopt my daughter. With the abandonment (no contact for 3 months) would I be able to go to court and get the father’s rights terminated? Or would the fact that he still texts me everyday (again, nothing about the child we share DNA with) not be ruled abandonment?

    He won’t give up his rights because he can use her as a “tax write-off” as he so calmly put it. If I were to go to court to get his rights terminated, can I do so with the abandonment clause?

    • This is a common situation. Fortunately, the law focuses on your child’s best interests. In order to determine this, a court will undergo a very fact-analysis of your situation. It is impossible to do that through this website. Therefore, I strongly suggest you consult with an attorney to review the facts of your situation and determine whether you might succeed in your request. Most attorneys offer a free consultation. Make sure you choose someone who is experienced in adoption and termination of parental rights cases. Good luck to you.

  32. I am a recovering drug addict and my sister currently has guardianship of my son which she will have until the court feels his father or myself is stable enough to take over and I have been clean for over a year and would like to at least have visitation how do I go about this? I appreciate your time.

    • Without knowing the specific facts of your case, I cannot give you an answer to your question. Guardianships have their own rules and procedures, which also often vary by county. I would encourage you to consult with an attorney who is experienced in this area and in your county. Good luck to you.

  33. I have a baby with an ex-girlfriend. I don’t have custody or anything but i’m on the birth certificate. Neither of us are in a situation to be good parents and she wants to give her up for adoption and there is a couple ready and willing to adopt. I am completely ok with this. How do I voluntarily terminate my parental rights so the baby can get adopted?

    • The voluntary termination of parental rights is done in conjunction with the adoption. In other words, everything is done at the same time. You should receive notice when that process is initiated.

  34. My ex hasn’t seen my child in 3 years. It has been over 2 years since I last heard from him. I do get child support since it is court ordered and garnished from his checks.
    I am engaged and getting married early next year. He is willing to adopt my child and already has more financial responsibility than I receive in support.
    I do not have any contact information for my ex. I have no phone number, address, email, or know where he works. Can I have his rights involuntarily terminated or do I need him? What should my next step be?

    • Hello – you certainly have grounds to involuntarily terminate his parental rights and your fiancée can adopt your child after you have been married for a year. That process can take a while so you should contact a local social service agency and/or an attorney who handles adoptions and they can advise you of the steps to take and the costs. You will have to use all reasonable and diligent efforts to find the dad – you can’t just say you don’t know where he is. You have to make efforts to find him. However, the agency or attorney can advise you as to how much efforts are necessary in your particular county. Every judge and county has different rules about that. Good luck to you.

  35. My fathers daughter was in prison for the first 6 years of her life. Turns out he is a sex offender (I was not aware when I conceived). Well, when he got out they issued a child support order, and since he was not working, they only set $50/month. My daughter who is now 8 years old does not want anything to do with him. She is more than happy and taken care of by me and my fiance. I had the county review my child support order since he is now the owner of a roofing company and makes A LOT of money each year. Well, he lied to them and said that there was no increase since the last order so they denied my order. I have now begun the process of going through the court system to have it reviewed on my own. I have to issue the papers to him (or someone I know has to I should say) but I do not know and address for him, or even a last known address, so I do not know how to get them to him. The county said the court can for a fee, but really?! I am already paying to go to court and really want to avoid that. I sent him a text for his address and now he is claiming that he is going to take me to court to get supervised visitation.. which I am SO against! He asked me a month ago if he can sign over his rights and now he wants to try to be a father so I stop going after child support. Can he legally get visitation if he was not in her life for the first 8 years? He is saying that he is going to hold it against me that I moved out of state (barely crossed the border!) with out talking to him about it first… and he was incarcerated when I did so. Can he really hold that against me? Is there any way that he can sign away his rights with my consent even though I am not married yet? Ugh.. I don’t even know what to do at this point

    • You should consult with an experienced family law attorney but the short answer is that no, he can’t terminate his parental rights unless you have a new spouse who is willing to adopt. The rest of your questions are too complex to answer on this forum. You have a lot of issues you seem to be dealing with and an attorney who is familiar with the facts of your case is the best person to help you address them. Good luck to you.

  36. So my husband has primary placement of his almost 5 year old. Mom has EOW periods of physical placement & often (more then 50% of the time) skips her visits. She has called maybe once-twice in the past two years & occasionally asks that we have the child call her, and most of the time she doesn’t answer & doesn’t call back. If the next visit is skipped that will mark 3 months of no contact, and here is the kicker- SHE gets child support each month “to help with travel expenses for exchanges” she is the parent who moved, she is the noncustodial parent, and she sees the child less then 50% of her court ordered periods of placement. I’ve been an active step parent & been in this child’s life since the paternity was determined- I’d love to adopt if mom’s parental rights were terminated.

    We have an attorney, but my question is- if we file abandoment & then mom starts showing up for visits or calls child out of the blue, does the abandoment get ruled out?

    • You should ask your attorney that question but the answer is, it completely depends on the facts and what the court/judge determines is in the child’s best interests.

  37. So i had read and understand that for cases to be with divorced couples.
    What if its in my case:
    In Currently 9 weeks pregnant, and during my pregnancy i found out that the baby daddy Dislocated his first childs arm, and hit the mother when she was pregnant. And i feel as for the child and my safety i didnt want to be involved anymore with him, i took a preganacy test and he saw only one line because the other line was faint he had said *good i dont have to pay child support* left the room and i told him to come back and i said look again and closer this time, it was positive.. so i broke up with him at 8weeks 2days, and he said it wasnt to far in the pregnancy to get an aportion, that stopped my heart when he said that. Then i said well then it wouldnt be hard for you to sign off on he/she when he/she is born, and he said ur right it wont. So i have all these messages saved that he wants me to have an aportion and he wants nothing to do with the unborn child. Now how would that show up in court? Would his parental rights be taken away? I mean he doesnt want anything to do with him or her. And he doesnt see his first child as it is. What orders do i have to follow?

    • The father cannot force you to have an abortion. He also will not have any legal rights to the child until he is formally found to be the father by the courts. Unless you receive some kind of public aid, in which case the State will bring an action against him to collect support, you do not have to file any kind of paternity action. Therefore, he would never have any kind of rights unless he asks for it which sounds doubtful under this scenario. However, if you want to receive support from him in the future, you would then have to file a paternity action which would also give him custodial rights. All of these factors you would list would be considered by the court when awarding him placement. If you have any further questions, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney in your area.

  38. If my sons dad want to sign over his rights because he wants nothing to do with me because i told his new girlfriend about r child and that we still mess around is tht possible cause he have a custody hearing coming up. And wen she found out he kept saying i fucked up meaning he not messing with my son will they just let him voluntarily give up his rights

    • No, he cannot. The only way is if (a) you agree and (b) there is another father (a step-parent) who is willing to step up and adopt your child so he/she is not left without a legal father.

  39. My son’s father is willing to voluntarily terminate his parental rights. My son is 4 and his biological father has not been part of his life, ever. My boyfriend of 3 years now has, on his own, taken the role of being my son’s Dad. He couldn’t be a better role model / father figure for him. Getting married is something we plan on doing in the future just not right now. Is there any way of my boyfriend taking that role of the stepparent and adopting my son without us actually being married?

    • The court will not terminate bio dad’s rights and leave your son without a legal parent. If the court would even allow it, your boyfriend would have to actually adopt him. But, typically, the court would not approve that as it is not a stable family situation and the court would not want to take your son from one unstable family situation and place him into another one. However, different judges and courts look at things differently. You should consult with an attorney in your area who handles adoptions, if your boyfriend is willing to do that. Without an accompanying adoption, however, bio dad’s rights will not be terminated.

  40. I read through some of the other comments hoping that I would find the information that I need. Unfortunately, I can see that my situation is a bit different.
    I have a 13 year old child with my ex-husband. He is currently serving a 30 year sentence in prison for a class D felony child abuse and 1st degree wreckless homicide. This is for the death of a child that I had before marrying him with another person.
    He has been incarcerated since Nov. 2002.
    I want to ask him to voluntarily terminate his rights so that I can be free of him and to also change my daughters name, which is something that I know that he would not agree to.
    In our divorce hearing he was not ordered to pay child support and he has no visitation rights.
    Your help is appreciated. I am located in Wisconsin.

    • I am so sorry about the death of your child. You have my deepest sympathies. There are special rules regarding this type of situation. For example, if an individual is convicted of attempted or solicitation of a homicide of the other parent or a felony against a child (which this would certainly qualify). I would guess that in this situation, the court would likely approve the termination of his parental rights without an accompanying adoption. I would encourage you to seek the advice of an attorney experienced in this area in the county in which you reside.

  41. I’m currently going through a quite tough situation with my father’s son. He denied he was his child up until paternity was done (which was when he was about 5-6 months old which was when his father finally met him) and now he has another child on the way. He has a difficult time with the placement we have set up, being he already rarely shows and when he does I still am doing everything for my son. We are still adjusting everything, being that my son is 8 months old and we’ve only been to court twice for placement and custody, which I currently have sole custody and primary placement. Court is being held again in December, and it has arisen that he failed his drug test and the finding of him having another girl pregnant. My son hasn’t yet met anyone on that side of his family other than his father. He pays me $50 a month in hold support, and I do have to give him credit for doing it since it was ordered in October. My fiancé would like to adopt my son, but I’m just curious as to if this is something even worth mentioning, or if they would even terminate his rights?

    • The only way the court would approve this would be (a) if the father agreed and (b) if you were actually married. It does not appear that you have sufficient grounds to involuntarily terminate the father’s parental rights. As you can imagine, there must be some pretty extreme circumstances for that to occur. And, even after you are married, there is a minimum period of one year before the court will typically approve a step-parent adoption. They want to make sure that the situation is stable and that there has been sufficient time for your son to bond with his step-father. However, if you are unsure or if you want more information, you could consult with an adoption attorney or a social service agency which handles adoptions.

  42. We are grandparents and legal guardians of our grandson and have been for the past 6 years. My son, who has schizophrenia, is willing to give up his parental rights and allow us to adopt our grandson. The last time we brought the subject up to the mother she was hesitant, but we go through several months of not hearing from her, sometimes 6 months, sometimes longer. We really want to adopt our grandson, in part, so he would be assisted financially through social security if anything should ever happen to one of us. We have not received any financial assistance from either parent in the 6 years our grandson has been with us. He is now 8.

    • I would suggest that you seek a consultation with an adoption attorney. There are two ways that a parent’s rights can be terminated: voluntary and involuntary. It sounds as if you may possibly have grounds to involuntarily terminate the mother’s parental rights, even if she doesn’t agree. Good luck!

  43. My husband got a girl pregnant and she wants nothing to do with the child after giving birth, can she sign her rights away and can I adopt that child with my husband being the biological father?

  44. ok Wisconsin policy in ensuring a child has two parents, is that factor written in the stats, or is it just a policy action? by a bureau crat in Madison who makes up these rules or laws, I want to research this prior to petitioning the court and wasting their time, child support is not the issue, that is off the table

    • I’m sorry but there is not enough information in your post to respond. I can tell you that even if child support is not an issue, there are psychological and mental reasons at stake, on both sides of the argument. There are also inheritance issues. If you terminate parental rights, you are also terminating legal ties to the father’s entire family. There are few other reasons as well. However, it doesn’t matter as this is the current state of the law. If you are unhappy with that, you should contact the legislature although I do not see this changing any time soon.

  45. I gave my mother parental rights for raising my daughter 5 years ago. She is moving to Antigo Wi by the end of this month and taking my daughter with her. If I signed away my rights to have guardianship of my daughter to my mother can I get my legal rights back? Keep in mind nothing was done in court so we have financial agreements made for support for my biological child. What steps do I need to take to prove I can get her back?

    • This is a very complicated situation. In some courts and in some counties, guardianships are viewed to be permanent. However, that is not true in other courts. And, even if it is, you still have some options depending on the facts of your case. I would strongly encourage you to seek the advice of an attorney who is experienced in guardianships and CHIPS cases to help you.

  46. Well my kids father is in their life off an on. An it is really taking a toll on their lives is their anyway he can just give up his rights

    • No, I’m afraid not. The courts (and the state) usually take the view is having a father is better than no father, even if he is a bad father. It is difficult to terminate the rights of even an abusive father, much less an indifferent father. However, you can always seek the advice of an attorney who practices in your area to determine if there is any possibility given your situation.

    • It depends. If there was a contested hearing, either parent has the right to appeal providing it is in within the time limits set forth by statute. Or, if a parent who was terminated can prove that they weren’t served with proper notice or that the other parent didn’t exercise due diligence in attempting service, there may be grounds as well. However, if rights were terminated legally and all of the statutory requirements were met, then the termination would stand and an appeal/review would not be possible. If you have any questions regarding your specific situation, I would advise you to consult with an attorney who is experienced in this area and can review your facts to give you a more determinative answer to your question.

  47. I have a question, I have an almost 16 Year old biological child whom I have only seen twice years ago. I have tried for years to be a part of this childs life but the mother refused. A couple times she said i could come to her house to see her but when I got there the child was not there. She wanted to have um “relations” with me and that was it so because I denied her that she never let me have anything to do with the child, with her getting older the child hates me thinks I’m to blame for everything. She is mentally messed up violent, suicidal, … here is the kicker, I was 15 when the mother was 30 and started to molest me, she got pregnant when I was 16 and 17 when child was born, she waited till I was 18 to take me to court for child support I have paid the child support for this whole time, even though I could never see the child, the courts would keep telling her I get visitation but she just moves, changes number over and over keeping me from the child. She has lied to everyone saying I’m the one being a deadbeat… at this point I’m fed up, there is no way our relationship would ever be beneficial because she was taught to hate me, I have other children and I feel their safety would be at risk even if I could ever get the child at this point.. the hate is that bad, so can I sign over my rights and just be done with this situation?

    • I’m sorry to hear about your situation. Pursuing this vigorously through the courts earlier could possibly have prevented what has happened but I understand you were so young. You probably should have filed criminal charges against her. Nonetheless, the answer to your question is no. Why? Because this isn’t about you or even her – it is about your daughter. She is entitled to have two legal parents. You still have options, if you wanted. Further court intervention requiring significant counseling. Strict enforcement of court orders. I know all of that is exhausting and expensive but it does sometimes end positively. Even if you do not choose that path, however, I would urge you not to give up on your daughter. She is just as much of a victim of her mother as you are. She may come around eventually and realize what her mother has done to her or to both of you, for that matter. Even if she doesn’t, however, many parents have bad or even toxic relationships with their children. Unfortunately, the law doesn’t allow you to walk away from that. Sorry and good luck to you and your family.

  48. At what age in wisconsin is a child allowed to speak and say where he would rather be in court? I’ve been told it is 12, but I have been unable to find any information on this.

    • There is no age where a child can decide where to live. The older they are, the more weight their wishes are given. The ultimate determination is what in the child’s best interests and while a child’s wishes is part of that, it is never the only factor.

  49. My daughter is a week old and her father has a violent side.he physically and mentally abused my son not his and now my son is petrified of him.he used to scream in my son’s face and also throw him when he wouldnt stop crying what are my chances of Gerri g his rights taken away.I’m afraid he’s going to hurt my daughter

    • Terminating rights is not where to start on this – it is the absolute last resort. You should call the police when he becomes violent. You should also seek an order in family court denying him placement rights. In fact, there are multiple options on this depending on the exact facts of your situation. You should consult with an experienced family lawyer right away to discuss your situation.

  50. My question is, can my fiance sign my daughter’s (Now 2 1/2 yrs old) birth certificate? When she was born, I was able to claim “good cause’ to not cooperate with child support because of domestic violence when I was pregnant. It was brought to court. The finding was bases on a judge’s decision. My daughter thinks my fiance is her daddy. Do we have to go through a court or can we just have him sign her birth certificate?

    • No, I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way – that would be a lie and a fraudulent act if he claims he is her biological father when he isn’t. The only option you have is to have him adopt her after you are married. There is a process for that. You should consult with an adoption attorney in your area or a social service agency which handles adoptions.

  51. My 7yrs old son’s father (who never wanted kids) took me to court when my son was 6wks old for custody putting me thru hell in the process. We were in a relationship prior to this but his parents played a big role in his evil plot to take him away from me. We got 50/50 custody. BUT…ever since then which has been 7yrs he has been harassing me and threatening me to go for full custody using ANY FALSE ACCUSATIONS he can against me. He has had the Social Services come and do a welfare check just on his word, soley for the purpose because he as pure hatred towards me and wants to cause drama. I have had a harassment citation served on him once. There is police documentation from prior incidences. And it still continues. I have no money to retain counsel unless a Public Defender which Im not sure really puts all their effort into “these type” of cases. My question is that I have SOOOOOOO much documentation thru the years that a guardian ad litem should see and a judge should hear and that it is NOT in the best interest of the courts to see him in this TOXIC atmosphere of his father and his parents. My son’s father is a drug user, his parents are full-fledged alcoholics. Just recently there was an incident where my son’s father, his mother & his father were drinking at a bar, the father started walking, the son & mother left drunk in the vehicle and one of them hit the father (husband) while walking and fled the scene. Investigation ensued with the family whether mother or my son’s father was driving. Mother was taken to jail. And now awaits OWI charges. But the state didn’t pursue a hit & run? He was flown by helicopter to hospital. And damage to the truck was found when impounded. Why can’t I go for full custody because it is NOT in the best interest of my child to be in this environment!!!! They fill his head full of negative comments about me and he comes home and tells me THINGS A 7YR OLD SHOULD NOT HEAR AND KNOW!!! These people are dysfunctional and my son is affected by it! I DO NOT want my son growing up learning bad habits and bad unchristian behavior! What’s my recourse?

    • Your only option is to file a Motion to Modify Custody and Placement. You are confusing your terms, however. Custody is legal decision making only. Placement is where your child is living and with whom. Sole custody is rarely awarded and really shouldn’t be your priority. You should be focusing on obtaining primary placement to minimize the time your son spends with his father and family. Keep in mind that it is virtually impossible to take away placement from a parent entirely. As a result, your son will still see his father and he will always have an opportunity to cause problems for you and say negative things to your son. Reducing placement limits opportunity for that but it will still exist. Therefore, I strongly recommend you get your son into counseling to give him some coping tools to deal with his toxic family. Counseling for yourself for the same reason is also not a bad idea. Good luck.

  52. My husband terminated his parental rights in 2012- never saw his son. The bilogical mothers husband adopted the child. Now in 2016 she is divorced from the man and has contacted us to see if we would like to see the 7 year old child. If we agree to see him is there any way that she could go after my husband for child support when he has no parental rights to the child?

  53. My son’s biological father has not seen,or communicated with him in 3 years. I possess full custody and placement since he missed the initial custody hearing in july 2014. My husband has been going through a nasty custody battle with my steps mother. The mother is very vindictive, and saught out my ex, brought him to one of their court hearings, knowing i would be there, and SHE served me papers. I had not seen this man in years, besides in and out of court. Needless to say, after he filed papers to gain 50/50, he still has not asked about our sons wellbeing. He has criminal charges pending against him, with 3 felony counts as well. I filed a TPR, with my husband to adopt, to move on with our lives. The bio father of my son, has testified in court at another trial case some disturbing things about his life. Now I am faced with trying to find a lawyer, probono due to my step son’s custody triak draining us of funds. I don’t think I can fight this one alone. What is your advice as to finding a lawyer, and or fighting this on my own pro se.

    • Wow! Sounds like a complicated mess. I really can’t give you any tips or advice since it sounds as if there are lots of facts that surround this entire situation. My guess is that you definitely need an attorney. You can start by calling around in the county that you live in. Most attorneys offer free consultations and, sometimes, when you are sitting in their office, they are willing to work out payment plans or fee arrangements if they are interested in taking your case. You can look at AVVO.com for attorneys in your area. Or, you can call the state bar referral program – here is a link. State Bar Referral Program Good luck.

  54. We have a huge problem. My niece gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. We found out the baby and my niece both tested positive for Heroin. Until then nobody knew. Well we are taking care of my niece the problem is the State of Wisconsin. Grandmother on the baby’s Dads can’t have her because of 1 DUI 10 years ago then my Sister in Law can’t have her because my nephew is on probation for breaking windows and other criminal damage from when he was 15. Then the state said my niece has until her daughter is 15 months then she gets her parental rights terminated and the baby goes up for adoption. Now with very many family members who are willing to take this baby and the state will not even hear of it . Can you help at all or tell us where we can get help please

  55. We are originally from another state and my husband was given full permanent custody of my step-son through social services. His mother is a drug addict. In our custody papers it states that we had the right to cancel her visitation if we suspected her of drug use and request a drug test. Until a clean drug test was provided to us, her visitation would be cancelled. We sent her an e-mail in June of 2014 requesting a drug test, which we have proof of. She has not had any kind of contact with my step son or us since that e-mail. Not a phone call, e-mail, Facebook message, text, NOTHING. She is $2100 behind in child support. I want to adopt him something horrible. He is 16 and has asked almost daily when I can adopt him. He doesn’t want to wait until he is 18 and can do an adult adoption. Does it at least sound like we would be good candidates for a case? Also, since she is in another state would that make this more complicated? Were not even sure where she is living at this point. In the custody paperwork it stated that the only rights she had was to his medical and education records and to 4 hours of supervised visitation a month. I appreciate any information you can give me.


    • It sounds as if you have very good grounds to terminate her parental rights and adopt as a step-parent. The first step is to contact a social service agency in your area which specializes in adoptions. They can tell you what steps you need to take and how it all works. Good luck!

  56. I have placement of my 4 children and I have 50/50 custody with my ex wife. We have not heard from her and she has not seen my kids in 2 1/2 years could I file for full custody ? I do not receive any child support but I dont know what to do at this point. thank you !

    • You certainly could file for custody but you need to decide if you really want to open that door. What effect does joint custody really have now if she isn’t around? If that “label” is causing you problems, then you may have no choice or if you want child support, that is a different story. However, returning to court may just give her the opportunity to try to enforce her placement. I would strongly recommend that you seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney as to what all of your options are and what the consequences of any legal action may be. Most family law attorneys offer free consultations. Good luck.

  57. I have a parent who has not seen his child in 4 yrs and all of a sudden decidied to file for contempt and custody for not keeping in touch. CPS has been involved for a couple times because of sexual abuse allegations and witnessing domestic violence and also investigations with a couple police departments for sexual abuse, but all have come back cannot proove its all here say. CPS is involved now and there also is a temporary restraining order on this parent that keeps getting extended also. The child has been in on going counseling for many years and stated many times how terrified she is that the other parent is gonna take her. She has many night terrors and unable to sleep in her bed for yrs , She does sexual things inappropriately for her young age. She is unable to grow up, because of all the trauma. There is a step parent that has been raising her and she loves him and he loves her and he wants to adopt her. How should they proceed?

    • Wow! This is a very concerning situation for all. It sounds as if there may be grounds for a termination of the father’s rights but there are a variety of factors to take into account. A consultation with an attorney that handles adoptions can give them the answers that they need.

  58. I have a question my daughter has lots of health problems and is 11 but is only mentally at a 3 year old level. Her father has not seen her in nine years and wants to terminate his rights so my husband can adopt her. Can he do this? He told me that someone said he can not because she has health problems. If you could help me out with these questions I would greatly appreciate it.

    • As long as your husband adopts her, her father can terminate his parental rights. You should consult with an attorney who specializes in adoptions. Good luck.

  59. I have a 15 year old son.
    He is now in DT, and I want to sign over my rights to the state, what has to happen and how ?

    • I’m afraid that is very unlikely. The State is not going to take responsibility over your son nor is it going to assume the financial burden of him just because he may be difficult or have criminal issues. Occasionally, they will terminate a parent’s rights over a child if serious grounds (abuse, severe neglect or abandonment) exist to allow that child to be adopted, but that is a rare case and usually only for younger children. However, you can speak to your son’s case/social worker about this.

  60. Hi there.

    I have a different set of circumstances other than child support or neglect. My ex is serving 30 years behind bars for repeated sexual assault of the same child (3 or more occasions) that child was my daughter and she was 6 years old. He and I share a son in common and I have read over the statutes numerous times and out of the 7 (i think) reasons to terminate i can prove 4. In this circumstance would I still need to have someone adopt my son? I do agree it is important for my son to have a dad but i feel that he deserves a chance not having the dad he currently does as its not in his best interest. I’m not ready to be in any kind of relationship because I’m still trying to get over being abused by him. Would the court consider this?

    • Every county and every court is different. Sometimes in extreme circumstances, they do terminate without an adoption but that is usually in cases where the State is already involved, such as a CHIPS action, and where the parents have already been found to be unfit. However, it can’t hurt to try. You should consult with an attorney who practices in that area in your county. An adoption or CHIPS attorney is the right place to start. Most attorneys do not charge for consultations so you have nothing to lose. Good luck!

  61. My husband has had sole custody of his sons for almost 4 years now, the mother has very minimum visitation. The kids mother has been threatening to take my husband back to court to get more custody. There are a lot of issues with his ex, the kids therapist even said it is not a good environment for them. Is there any chance of my husband being able to completely terminate her rights so I can adopt them

    • There are many factors which go into a termination of parental rights/adoption and is very fact specific. Therefore, I cannot answer your question on this forum. I would recommend you consult with an attorney or social service agency which specializes in adoptions. Good luck.

  62. Hi,
    My son will be turning 4 and the man listed on his birth certificate is not his father (which we found out after doing an at home dna test). The man listed has not seen my son since before he turned 1. I have been with his biological father since we got the dna results back and since have had 2 more children together. The man listed on his birth certificate will be willing to give up rights, however bio dad and I are not married yet due to finances. Considering the circumstances, do you think the courts would allow adoption without marriage?

    • Hmmm … this is tricky. I’m not sure that you even need to terminate parental rights if you have proof of a different bio dad through dna testing. You certainly don’t need to do an adoption. A bio dad doesn’t need to adopt his own child. I think all you would need to do is to file a paternity action establishing that bio dad is the legal father and requesting that the child’s birth certificate be changed/corrected. We do that all of the time when a dad isn’t listed. You should consult with an experienced family law attorney in your area but, off the top of my head and without all of the facts, that is my response.

  63. Hi,

    I have two daughters, a 2 yr old and a 1 yr old. My daughter’s father hasn’t seen them for the last going on 6 months. He has willingly signed off sole legal custody and primary placement to me and we have no visitation set up for him to even see the kids. I’ve had to get a harassment restraining order against him as well. He has stopped paying child support and has no desire to see the children. I would like to know, is there ANY way if i can get him to sign off his parental rights, and he would willingly do it, is it possible the courts would allow him to sign off on them?

    • The answer is generally no, not without an accompanying step-parent adoption. If you remarry and your new spouse is willing to adopt your children, you can pursue this then. In the meantime, it sounds as if you have full control (sole custody and placement) and he isn’t paying child support anyway. So, I don’t see how a termination would benefit you or not terminating would harm you or the children. However, you can always speak with an attorney experienced in this area in the county in which you live to get their opinion and/or advice on your specific situation.

  64. My Daugther is almost 11 years old. She hasn’t seen or heard from her dad in over two years. Even before that was maybe once a year. I got married a few years ago and my husband wants to adopt her. I use to live in Wisconsin and recently moved to south Carolina. I want to take the steps to terminate his parental rights and do the step parent adoption. Where would I file these things? The dad lives in Wisconsin. Can I file to terminate his rights in Wisconsin first and then file for a step-parent adoption here in South Carolina? Also will my husband have a problem adopting her if he owes back support for another child?

    • Hello- if you were in Wisconsin, you would definitely have grounds for terminating his parental rights. I don’t know what the laws in South Carolina so you would have to consult with an attorney there. There is a national law which all of the states have adopted (UCCJEA) which provides that a state does not have jurisdiction over a child unless the child has been a resident of that state for at least 6 months. So, I would say that you could do the adoption/termination in South Carolina but probably not for at least six months, unless South Carolina has requirements or rules beyond that. I would speak with an adoption attorney right away to get everything going and to make sure you have grounds in South Carolina and, that way, when the necessary time period expires, you are ready to go. Good luck!

  65. I am a unmarried father and I was told by child service I couldn’t see my child till court do a DNA test if I have already sign the birth certificate of my child at the hospital before this happen do I still have the rights to see my child until court say otherwise ?and can I take a DNA test early before court to prove it so I can see my son ?

    • The question is whether you signed a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) at the hospital which is one step up from being on the birth certificate. This document gives you legal rights to your child and no DNA testing is required. If you did, then you do need to go to court to formally establish custody and placement. If you did not sign a VAP, then you need to go to court to legally establish that you are the father. You should consult with an attorney experienced in this area as soon as possible. Sometimes it takes a while to get into court and the sooner you do, the faster you will see your child, one way or the other. Good luck!

  66. My husband has had sole custody & placement of his 4-year-old son for a little over a year. Bio-mom is a drug addict and was charged with neglecting him at one point. Bio-mom is allowed supervised visits but has not set any up, so she hasn’t seen him in about 14 months. She has called maybe 3 times total and has spoken to him for a couple of minutes at the most, but that is the only contact. She doesn’t pay any child support.

    I want to adopt my stepson, as I am raising him and love him very much. I know she will not agree to terminate her rights & let me adopt, but I doubt she will show up for hearings or participate in the proceedings as she didn’t show up or participate in any of the custody hearings. Do you think we’d have grounds for involuntary termination of her rights based on abandonment or would her few short minutes of contact over a year disqualify us for seeking abandonment?


    • There are certain statutory requirements which must be met in order to terminate parental rights, which is required for an adoption. There are additional requirements which need to be met for an involuntary termination, if she doesn’t agree. This is not our area of expertise so you should definitely consult with an attorney experienced in this area (adoption). Most attorneys offer free initial consultations. There are other steps to this process, such as a custody study, that you also need to go through. Good luck!

  67. I the father had a one night stand with a women. She has decided to keep the child. It saddens my heart but I would like to go about termination of my rights. We both agree and willing to sign over my rights. Is this possible in the state of Wisconsin without adoption even if we both agree?

  68. Can we voluntarily relinquish mentally ill adopted son. He is addicted to drugs at 15 and has many diagnosis. Tearing the family apart. Unsafe to himself and we cannot keep him safe what ever we do

  69. Why are you giving false information? Wisconsin does have grounds for both the involuntary AND voluntary termination of parental rights… I had originally been looking for advice on this matter, but found it without your “aid”– guess what? Any felony conviction against another child is grounds for termination of parental rights. Looks like I’ll be free of a monster soon!

    • Thank you for your comment. Please note that the article does discuss an involuntary termination of parental rights and, in fact, we have made it clear that there are grounds to establish for same. However, the purpose of this blog and of the post is to discuss this issue as it relates to divorce and paternity cases. Many parents ask us if they can simply terminate the parental rights of a parent just because they are not paying child support or not seeing their child. While possible, an involuntary termination of parental rights without an accompanying step-parent adoption is very rarely granted and is typically only found when there is severe abuse or other exigent circumstances and the state is usually involved, such as through a CHIPS (child in need of protection or services) or criminal action. If you can get a judge to approve a TPR based on something done to another child, then that would be an unusual result. However, to clarify, I will add something to the post along these lines. Thanks for pointing it out to us.

      Based upon another comment, if you are referring to YOU terminating your rights to a child based upon a crime against another child, then that is an area to which I cannot speak. This would be an extremely complicated situation for which an attorney experienced in that area would be necessary. Again, we only practice in divorce and paternity cases. Good luck to you in either case.


    • Wow! I’m sorry to hear about your troubles. This is an extremely unusual situation. As I have said before, we are not experts in this area of the law and this blog is really not an appropriate forum to obtain legal advice, especially as it applies to unusual situations. Therefore, you should see the advice of an attorney who specializes in termination of parent rights cases. Good luck.

  71. Hello! My son’s father wants to voluntarily sign over his rights to my boyfriend that I am not married to. The father has not seen his son in over a year but contacts him through video calls. He’s also not current on his child support. I suppose my question is can he legally sign over his rights without me being married.

    • It would be highly unlikely that the court would approve such an arrangement. However, you should consult with an experienced adoption attorney in your area to obtain a definitive answer on this question. Good luck.

  72. I am a mother that pays child support. My daughter has mad it clear she wants nothing to do with me. So how can I go about doing what she wants and sign my rights away???

    • There are a whole lot of facts which are missing from your question making it difficult to respond. You will likely not be allowed to sign your parental rights away – it just doesn’t work that way. Just because parenting is difficult, doesn’t mean you can walk away. However, there may be things you can do to force a reconciliation with your daughter and enforce your parental rights in the Court. You should consult with an experienced family law attorney to go through all of the facts and discuss your options.

  73. Hello I was hoping you could answer my question My sons father has been threatening to kill my son and I as well as my two daughters that are not his for years when my son was 1 he left a voicemail of my son (who is autistic) choking and crying saying “ I’m going to kill him” and the police recorded everything and I was able to get a restraining order on him but he is still contacting me and my daughters father with fake pages on Facebook it’s been 5 years and he still won’t leave me alone the restraining order is still in place is it possible that his rights can be relinquished since he is not allowed to be around me or my son!

    • Yes, his rights can likely be terminated in this situation. I’m not sure how that will resolve the harassing behavior except you need to keep contacting the police to enforce it. You should consult with an attorney who is experienced in termination of parental rights cases. Perhaps he or she can also help you with the harassment. I am sorry for your terrible situation. Good luck!

    • Possibly. There is a process that you must go through, including using all reasonable and diligent efforts to find the father and provide him with notice. You may also have to publish notice in the newspaper of the last known residence of the father. If the court is satisfied with those efforts, they may allow a parental termination.

  74. I have multiple sclerosis and my vision is impaired enough so that I can’t drive. My husband is divorcing me and we have agreed to joint custody with 50/50 placem. Our daughter is 15 so we have agreed she can also chose where she wants to be at any moment in time. I am concerned the court will not approve the placement out of concern for her safety. What have WI courts done in these situations? Can they deny placement with me or the joint custody?
    Thank you.

    • No – many parents have medical problems or issues. Providing that the health, safety and welfare of your daughter is not in jeopardy, you are fine. Besides, the courts nearly always (95%) approve agreed upon custody and placement arrangements. Even if there is a contest, the courts would likely not hold your physical problems against you with a 15 year old who can meet her own daily needs. Good luck!

  75. My son is 17 and was told he is the father of a baby with his 16 year old ex. She accused him of rape after they broke up which police found there was no evidence and she then admitted she made false accusations because she was hurt and angry. This situation caused extreme stress on my son and our family. My son began cutting and even attempted suicide. She then said she was pregnant but that the current boyfriend was the father and she was having an abortion. She continued to take her birth control, drink, do drugs, and even went under anethesia hoping to lose the baby. Once the baby was born the DNA test showed the boyfriend was not the father so she said it is my sons. She then said her parents were going to adopt the baby. She is very vindictive and he very scared she will accuse him of something again but this time involving the baby. He wants to terminate his parental rights since he is extremely fearful for his future and the baby’s, can he do that? If her parents want to adopt her and the ex agrees? If not is there anything my son can do to protect himself? Thanks.

    • This sounds as if it is a difficult situation and you and your son should consult with an attorney to assist you in all of these matters right away. This is not the kind of question that can easily be answered on this forum. However, in general, if there is an adoption, then yes your son would be able to terminate his parental rights. If there is no adoption, then I’m afraid I don’t have an easy answer for you in this very difficult situation.

  76. My daughters birth father has not seen my daughter for over a year PLUS. He has ways to contact me, his mother & step father stay in contact but he has not attempted to reach out whatsoever. My boyfriend & I have been together for several years, and my daughter loves him as her father & calls him dad. He supports her in every way & has done everything for her. I need advice, I do not want him to have rights because I mean he doesn’t deserve them.

    • In order to terminate parental rights, you need to have an accompanying step-parent adoption. The court would only allow a step-parent, not a boyfriend, to adopt a child. Once you get married, then you can explore a step-parent adoption.

  77. I really hope that someone can assist me with this issue as to what can I do? In 1993 I met my husband who just went to Puerto Rico to get his 3 children that were taken away from birth mom for neglect & abuse. These three children had mental health issues in which I really didn’t know what I was getting into but I tried my best to love them and raise them the best I can before I adopted them court papers were sent to Puerto Rico they had to be signed by birth mom. Although, she had a choice to pay child support or sign over the termination of parental rights because those kids were in bad shape and condition. The birth mom did sign over the documents, but then come to know this lady came to live in Milwaukee WI because she told many of her family that she was coming here to get her kids back. I legally adopted them on May 2003 a few days later come to find out that this women whom I really don’t know had pictures of me and kids when they were adopted now want to say that their birth mom is half sister of my husbands brother’s wife although I don’t speak to any of them they seem to always know and tell this lady. She has crossed my boundaries, violated the state to stay away she has manipulated my adopted son in back of me that he left with her and he hates me now she is doing it again only this time she waited until my girls were older after 20 years old little by little she has looked for them in face book also filling their minds with lies I have had so many problems with my youngest adopted daughter that I have had so many emotional distress my health gotten worse to top it off this child punishes me by hanging up the phone insulting me 2 years ago she told me that she was going to find a new mommy that would love her and that how do I feel losing my daughter’s. This came about because I couldn’t go to my grandson birthday party due to my mobility issues can’t walk. My youngest adopted daughter has two children who are now 6 she is a girl and 9 who is a boy. She also told me that she was going to tell my grand kids that I love so much that we left. She got re-married in those two years never informed me but I saw a picture of her birth mom and my husbands brother’s wife which is her half sister in a photo my daughter hugging them both and smiling. I finally after two years called her she told me that she didn’t want nothing to do with me that I was mean I have to deserve to see the kids and I told her why did she lie to my grand kids? she told me if I called her to argue she would hang up and block me so I try not to argue I told her to please respect me and she told me that I don’t deserve her respect that was a title I didn’t have and I said since when can you say I have hurt you I raised you I am your mom she told me that is a title that I need win for now I am nothing or no one to her I said thank you after I gave you my love, support, emotionally was always there for you now you are going to betray me for no given reason can’t see my grand kids you are using them as pin balls just to punish me because you know that will hurt me correct? she didn’t answer and hung up I send her text she won’t answer she also insulted her biological father as well telling him he was never there for her and if he wants to see the kids she’ll pick him up and take him to her home and bring him back here to his home. This child who is now 28 years old is very manipulative I can’t believe she is using her children to hurt us and hurt them to my oldest adopted daughter told me that my grand kids cried cause they wanted to see me a while back but in two years she didn’t even come, call me, or try to reach out to her father and I she is very mean she has no remorse at all of the pain she is inflicting on me and her father for no given reason and her birth mom is having a ball that she is gaining her love little by little and hating me and filling her brain with negative words and her birth mom doesn’t even know me but she hates me and I never can understand why I never did anything to her that she didn’t do to herself the kids were taken away from her I didn’t cause her to abuse them so that they’ll be taken away she is acting towards me like if all this separation was my fault that is what she says. I also heard she told everyone that she was very happy to have her children all back again together those that are jealous too bad she doesn’t care she’ll do anything to have them but I say to myself she gave her parental rights away why is she acting like if she still has rights to them she never paid child support neither did she ever ask me if she could be part of her life or even see them she did this very sneaky and in back of me. This is very unfair to me I want to know how could she be stopped? This is so detrimental after I sacrifice my whole life taking care of them doing so much for them the law can’t be there to intervene for me in my eyes she violated my rights as a mom that I was to them now the youngest daughter and middle son both hate me with no regards. This women is getting away with a free ticket not paying for nothing and getting all the credit and acting like the victim. Is there any help or what can I do? I hope they don’t get away with this abusiveness because it will be so sad this is so atrociously wrong…. I wanted to write to her and tell her to stay away but my daughter is now 28 and son is 30, now papers has turned around and I don’t know what to do me and my husband are both so destroyed and I am very sick cause I can’t walk I have emotional distress very depressed to see how they took advantage of me. Hope I can get a answer to seek help… Thank you.

    • I’m sorry but I do not think the legal system can help you. This is a unfortunate set of family circumstances. You could possibly seek a restraining order if you want to insulate yourself from contact but I don’t have enough information to make that determination. You would have to seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney. You could also possibly seek grandparent visitation if you want to see your grandchildren. However, that would simply put you back in their cross hairs and give them even more reason to harass and abuse you. Again, however, you may want to seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney. Good luck to you.

  78. My 8 yr old father is considering signing off on his rights. I believe its because he doesn’t want to pay child support since he has another baby on the way. I’m all for it he hasn’t seen her in a year and lives in GA while we’re in WI. He pays child support but says he can’t afford it then says he wants to do what’s best for our daughter (sign over rights) she’s on badgercare. Would she lose her health insurance or would the courts likely not grant him termination because of it?

    • It would be unlikely that the court would allow him to terminate since your daughter is on state aid and she would have no other source of support. Also, the courts typically require an accompanying step-parent adoption so your client has a legal father.

  79. Is the 2014 statement the latest regarding an individual wanting to give up his parental rights to a child. A relative of mine just had a baby girl and was told that the father could give up his rights to the child up to the time the child is 9 months old and not have to pay child support. I am a retired paralegal and am trying to help this person but she has no money for an attorney. Has this law been changed or updated and where could I find that information

    • I’m sorry but I cannot comment on the facts of a specific case or circumstance. The best thing to do is to consult with an experienced attorney in this area. Many attorneys offer free consultations so even if someone cannot afford an attorney, they can at least obtain accurate information as it may apply to their case.

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