Q: Good morning,
I have an 8 year old son that resides in the state of Maryland. Me and the mother were never together as a couple, but with a few dealings she became pregnant. I've seen my son twice within the eight year span, and that was when he was just a year old. The mother had been unhappy because I didn't want to be with her. When I call the mother rarely answers and never returns my calls. I've been paying child support since birth. The mother has since moved on going on a few years now and has a father figure for our son. Biologically I have a child that I've been paying child support for, but never see or talk to. My question is can I give up my parental rights and with that, be excluded from any financial responsibility? I currently live in the state of NC.
A: No, you cannot do it unilaterally. If the "father figure" and your ex get serious, and get married, and if the father figure decides he would like to adopt your son as his own child, then with your voluntary consent you could allow the adoption and give up your parental rights in that scenario (you cannot be forced to give up your parental rights). Therefore, only in the event of an adoption would you be able to cease to have a legal obligation to pay child support. The adoption can only happen with your and your ex's consent. That would make the "father figure" the legally obligated parent who would have to pay child support if they split up. If you believe they are serious enough to remain as a couple, your coming back into the picture and filing for visitation rights with your son may prompt them to consider that option if that means you would cease trying to have visitation rights. Whether that strategy is a viable one is not something anyone answering on this forum can evaluate. However, given the many years of estrangement, visitation would be allowed only through short (one-two hour) visits maybe once per week, supervised, in a setting the child feels comfortable in, and would likely involve therapy sessions on a weekly basis for the child and potentially family therapy involving you, and the visitation schedule would only grow incrementally from there until your son felt comfortable about meeting and being with you. If you pursue this strategy and your ex and her significant other do not immediately try to get you to consent to an adoption and give up your rights, then you risk causing a lot of emotional damage to your son if you are not serious about developing and maintaining a real relationship with him. And, once you start down this road, you may decide that you want to remain in his life and not give up your parental rights. You would have to retain a family lawyer in Maryland to file for visitation in Maryland where your son resides, then travel here for court appearances and any visititation scheduled between you and your son. That will cost you money. You may also be ordered to pay for all or part of any therapy and counseling sessions ordered by the court to accommodate your coming back into your son's life after so many years. So, if money is the issue, then this may not be what you want to do.
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