Can she restore parent rights?

A few years ago my niece gave her three kids up for adoption. Her kids had originally been taken out of her home because of concerns of drug use and the cleanliness of her home I believe. She has since changed her life and wants her kids back. What are the chances of her reversing her voluntary relinquishment of parental rights? She says she didn’t really understand everything when this happened and felt pressured to do it.

It is generally very difficult to set aside a relinquishment of parental rights. When one relinquishes parental rights, all rights to the child(ren) are given up and it is generally a permanent decision.

It sounds like your niece probably originally had her children taken from her home by SRS and a “child in need of care” case was pursued. It is customary for the court to try and obtain permanency for the children after a period of time and multiple options are explored including adoption, reintegration, and appointing a custodian. Relinquishment or termination may thus be part of this end process.

A parent that relinquishes rights generally has no right to see the children involved in the matter and does not have any legal relationship to the children at all. The parent that relinquishes rights really has no more rights to the children than a stranger.

That said, there are situations where parents that have relinquished their rights may be allowed to visit their children subject to the legal guardian’s discretion. However, that doesn’t really change the parents’ legal rights to the children.

When a parent relinquishes rights, it is done upon the parent signing a consent form and having a hearing before a judge. The judge will inquire if it is the parent’s free and voluntary intent to take that approach. Only upon the parent consenting to the relinquishment and satisfactorily answering the judge’s questions will the judge approve the relinquishment.

With that in mind, because the judge takes great length to determine that the relinquishment is a free and voluntarily act, it is very difficult to set aside a relinquishment. It is conceivable that one may be able to show that they didn’t understand the process and did not voluntarily consent to the situation. However, this would be very difficult to show in light of the manner in which relinquishments are usually handled.

There are benefits to voluntary relinquishment over a judge simply single-handedly making the decision to terminate parental rights. These benefits may have been addressed by your niece’s counsel at the time that this matter was handled.

This sounds like a particularly difficult situation and, hopefully, there is a positive resolution to it.