Although the District provides statutory provisions as listed below for voluntary relinquishment of parental rights, in most cases, such does not subrogate child support obligations.
There are generally two ways for parental rights to be terminated or relinquished, either by the application of the two listed provisions below, which together allow a natural parent to voluntary relinquish rights to the Child and Family Services (CFSA), or via a court order terminating parental rights.
Voluntary relinquishment generally applies to a newborn and when either one or both parents declare legally unwillingness or inability to care for the child in which case the CFSA will take over caring for the child and eventually will seek permanency for the child via adoption.
Involuntary relinquishment or as commonly know: termination of parental rights, on the other hand, applies when the court system legally terminates parental rights and when it deems by clear and convincing evidence that such is in the best interests of the child.
In determining the child’s best interests the court shall consider each of the following factors:
- The child’s need for continuity of care and caretakers and for timely integration into a stable and permanent home, taking into account the differences in the development and the concept of time of children of different ages;
- The physical, mental and emotional health of all individuals involved to the degree that such affects the welfare of the child, the decisive consideration being the physical, mental and emotional needs of the child;
- The quality of the interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parent, siblings, relative, and/or caretakers, including the foster parent;
- To the extent feasible, the child’s opinion of his or her own best interests in the matter; and
- Evidence of drug-related activity in the child’s home environment.
Often times, a natural or putative parent facing child support filing brought by the other parent seeks to absolve obligations and explore voluntary relinquishment of rights to avoid child support obligations.
In the District however there is no statutory provision that enables such option. First, the voluntary relinquishment of one or both parents as listed above vests the legal obligation over to the CFSA. Thus, the voluntary relinquishment is not applicable when one parent with physical custody seeks to obtain child support from the non-custodial parent.
Secondly, no court of competent jurisdiction would legally declare that absolving a parent of child support obligations when brought by another parent would be in the best interest of the child unless there is a pending adoption petition being considered by the court.
Thus the short answer here is that voluntary relinquishment of parental rights does not generally absolve child support obligations and thus not legally viable option.
Refer to our Washington DC Family Lawyer page for more details pertaining to DC Family Law and in particular child support obligations.
Here is also another link to FAQ for DC Child Support.