How to Give Up Parental Rights in the State of Maryland

By Jessica Zimmer

Updated January 01, 2020

Lawyer or attorney working in the office


A parent begins the process of terminating his parental rights in Maryland by filing a petition for relinquishment of parental rights. They must do so in the juvenile department of the circuit court in the county where the child resides. The party can use the court’s form or submit his own drafted petition. There may be a filing fee. The court will then schedule a hearing.

What Happens at a Hearing?

At the hearing, the judge will ask the parent why she wants to terminate parental rights. The judge may request to hear from other individuals, such as the other parent, a foster parent or a Court Appointed Special Advocate, or CASA. A CASA is a court-appointed individual who gathers information about the child.

The judge wants to evaluate all the information to determine what is in the child’s best interests. When the judge agrees that a termination of parental rights is best for the child, she will issue an order to terminate the party’s parental rights (TPR). A judge may not always grant a request for a TPR.

Can a Party Terminate Another’s Rights?

A parent cannot terminate the parental rights of the other living parent. This means that a mother cannot terminate a father’s parental rights and vice versa. A party does not need a lawyer to terminate his own parental rights.

TPR Trials That Involve Multiple Children

If a TPR trial involves more than one child, the court will address statutory factors that the court must consider separately for each child, according to state laws. Statutory factors include the child’s health and safety, the parent’s progress, the child’s emotional ties and the child’s adjustment. Each child may have a unique placement history and a distinct set of needs and challenges.

Does a TPR End Child Support?

A termination of parental rights ends the party’s financial obligations toward the child. The parent no longer has to financially support the child, but will still be financially responsible for child support that was past due before the court terminated her rights.

Rights of Absent Parents

An absent father has the same rights as an absent mother. Maryland statutes do not favor the mother or the father. An absent parent who does not want to terminate his parental rights must not be found to have engaged in abuse or neglect of the child. When a child is abused or neglected, the court may make the parent's behavior the subject of a Child In Need of Assistance (CINA) case.

Adoption Rather Than “Signing Over”

A party can consent to an adoption at the same time she requests to terminate her parental rights. She should only use the form that relates to these actions in an independent adoption, not an adoption arranged by an adoption agency. A party who signs this consent form must have a witness present when she signs it. The witness must be 18 or older and not the child or the child’s other parent.

Self-Represented Parties Can Get Help

A self-represented party can get help with terminating parental rights in Maryland at a walk-in family law center at her local circuit court. Although a family law center may be staffed by lawyers, paralegals and court staff, a party can only get legal advice from a lawyer. That party can utilize the family law center to learn more about family law processes, get questions answered and get assistance with court forms. They cannot request that an attorney at the family law center represent him in court, file paperwork for him or help him if he already has a lawyer.