Pre-Birth Relinquishment

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Introduction Dateline: March 09, 2003
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Relinquishment, Time to Revoke
State Relinquishment Statutes

According to available state statutes, a pregnant woman cannot sign papers relinquishing her parental rights to her child until after the child is born, except in two states. The two states that allow signing before the child's birth are Alabama and Hawai'i.

In both states, the relinquishment is not binding until after the child's birth, and a the woman must either appear before a judge or reaffirm her decision in writing to the court.
  • In Alabama, whether the expectant mother signs before or after birth, she must sign and confirm this consent before a probate judge, and, while it doesn't need to be reconfirmed after birth, it can be withdrawn within five (5) days of the child's birth.

  • In Hawai'i, although relinquishment can be signed anytime after the 6th month of pregnancy, a written reaffirmation must be filed with the court after the child's birth, or within a period of not less than 10 days from notice by the court that termination is proceeding.

(It should be noted that in most states, a father or putative father may sign prior to or after birth, without a required court hearing.)

New Law Re-Opens the Debate

This issue is drawing attention as the Colorado legislature has passed an amendment to its adoption law that includes provisions for a woman not only to relinquish her parental rights prior to the child's birth, but also to waive her right to a hearing at that time (it would also allow the father to do the same). See Colorado H.B. 03-1286.

The purpose of the bill is to speed things up, or, as it states in the description:
"A Bill for An Act Concerning acceleration of the process for terminating the parent-child relationship of children under one year of age and, in connection therewith, expediting the voluntary relinquishment process."

The Colorado bill allows both expectant parents to
"seek an expedited order terminating his or her parent-child legal relationship without necessity of a court hearing" (19-5-103.5(1)(a)
if (among other things)
"The parent signs an affidavit stating his or her desire to voluntarily relinquish his or her parent-child legal relationship with the child and consenting to a waiver of his or her right to contest a termination of parentage" (19-5-103.5(1)(a)(IV)
"The relinquishing parent may sign the affidavit before the birth of the child" (19-5-103.5(1)(a) and (2).

To be fair, the bill also says that in order to do this, the parents must be assisted by a licensed agency, must be advised about what relinquishment means, about relinquishment counseling requirements, etc.

The notarized affidavit (in possession of the agency) is attached to the petition to relinquish which cannot be filed with the court until at least four (4) days after the child's birth, and the signing parent can withdraw it before the agency actually files it.

The Bill is awaiting signature.

(See a summary of Colorado's current statute.)

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