How to Relinquish Parental Rights in the State of Montana
By Stephanie Reid
Updated July 21, 2017
Chapter 42 of the Montana code governs adoptions and the relinquishment of natural parental rights. Natural parents may voluntarily relinquish rights or the court may terminate their rights based upon conduct evincing a nondesire to raise the child. Montana courts consider the best interests of the child above and beyond any other consideration, including that of the parents or family members.
Voluntarily Relinquishing Parental Rights
Make a knowing and voluntary decision to relinquish parental rights. A biological parent has a Constitutional right to control the upbringing of his children. The court cannot strip an individual of these rights without due process of law. You must make the decision to relinquish your rights knowing all the consequences and ramifications of the decision. Once you give up your parental rights, you have no further legal ties to the child for the rest of its life. The decision must be voluntary.
Draft a petition to the court detailing your desire to relinquish your parental rights. You must craft a petition detailing all the reasons why it is in the best interests of the child to terminate your rights. This could include your inability to provide for the child, your lack of interest in the child's life, your incarceration, addiction problems or any other reason you feel the child would be better off with a different parent.
File your petition within the local courthouse in the Montana county where either you or the child resides. There will be a nominal filing fee and the clerk will place you case on the docket for a hearing on the matter. You will be responsible for ensuring all parties to the action receive a copy of the petition and are aware of the date of the hearing. This includes the child's other parent, the child, his guardian or foster parent and any other family members with interest in the outcome.
Attend the parentage hearing. You will be required to attend a hearing to relinquish your parental rights. The judge will consider the evidence set forth in your petition as well as any other evidence or objections by any other parties. He may require social workers, foster parents or family members to testify as to whether your relinquishment will be in the best interests of the child. The judge will make a decision and an order will be executed at the end of the hearing. Once the order is filed, your parental rights will cease.
Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights
Leave the child in a foster care facility for 15 months of the most recent 22 months. The courts will presume it is in the best interests of the child to terminate parental rights if the child has been under the care of the state for the last 15 months and nobody has stepped forth to accept responsibility of the child.
Abandon or neglect the child. The court will presume termination of parental is in the child's best interest in any situation where the parent has abandoned the child or the child's basic human needs are not being met. The court might implement a treatment plan by which the parents can work toward the goal of reunification with the child. If the court finds the parents are not in compliance with the treatment plan, it will be abandoned and rights will be terminated.
Commit a sex crime resulting in the child. The court will presume the best interests of the child are not met in any situation where a parent has been convicted of a felony involving sexual intercourse upon the mother of the child, resulting in the birth of the child.
Possess a history of mental illness or violent behavior. The court will likely terminate a parent's rights who has been constantly found mentally ill or incompetent, as it is not in the child's best interest to remain in the care of that parent. In addition, excessive history of violent behavior, substance abuse including liquors and narcotics could also result in the termination of parental rights. Long-term incarceration, regardless of the offense, is also considered a criteria to terminate rights.
Abuse the child such that it sustains serious bodily injury or death. A parent who injures a child such that it experiences significant and grievous bodily injury will have his parental rights terminated, as will any parent causing the death of a child through willful, malicious conduct.
Stephanie Reid has been writing professionally since 2007, with work published in the Virginia Bar Association's "Family Law Quarterly" and the "Whittier Journal of Child and Family Advocacy." She received her Juris Doctor from Regent University and her Bachelor of Arts in French and child development from Florida State University. Reid is admitted to practice law in Delaware and Maryland.