Child Custody: Relinquishing a Newborn and Terminating Parental Rights
Choosing to relinquish custody of an infant is not an easy decision. But the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act makes that decision a little easier – at least regarding potential legal consequences. The act provides a mechanism for relinquishing a newborn to a safe environment without incurring civil or criminal liability. Moreover, the act allows the relinquishing parents to remain anonymous.
The first thing to understand about relinquishing a newborn under this act is that it creates a rebuttable presumption that the relinquishing parent consents to the termination of his parental rights (with respect to the relinquished newborn). Furthermore, there is a rebuttable presumption that the relinquishing person is the newborn’s biological parent, and that he intended to relinquish the child. This presumption exists whether he expressed his intent not to return for the infant or relinquished the child without expressing his intent to return.
A Safe Environment
Immunity from liability only exists if the parent relinquishes the newborn in accordance with the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act. First, the parent must relinquish the child to a safe environment – specifically, the parent must relinquish the infant to a hospital, police station, fire station or emergency medical facility. These facilities must accept the relinquished newborn and provide all necessary emergency services and care to the infant. They must also post a sign in a conspicuous location stating that they are safe facilities to relinquish a newborn.
Protection from Criminal Liability
Relinquishment in accordance with the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act does not constitute a basis for criminal liability (specifically abuse, neglect or abandonment). Thus, the state may not initiate a child protective or criminal investigation based solely on relinquishment. However, if the relinquished child is not a newborn infant, law enforcement will treat the case like an investigation for child abuse or neglect. Furthermore, if the hospital, police station, fire station or emergency medical facility personnel suspect child abuse or neglect that is not based on relinquishment then they must report these suspicions pursuant to the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act.
The relinquishing person has the right to remain anonymous as long as there is no evidence of abuse or neglect. He or she may leave the facility at any time and cannot be pursued or followed. The facility personnel will inform the relinquishing person that he or she will have to petition the court in order to prevent termination of parental rights and to regain child custody. However, the person may also choose to provide their identity.
It is important to understand the consequences of relinquishment – specifically, that by relinquishing your child you are terminating your parental rights. This is not a decision to be made lightly. Contact one of our dedicated DuPage County family law attorneys to discuss your options regarding relinquishment, adoption, termination of parental rights, and petitioning to regain custody.