Ask A Lawyer: With Terminated Rights, Can You Get Custody Later?


If a parent has had their parental rights terminated 11 years prior to today, can they legally try to regain custody of their children?

What if a child has a different father named on the birth certificate?





Having parental rights terminated generally means a court order has been entered finding the parent unfit or that the parent has voluntarily surrendered their parental rights to allow a third party to adopt the child.  

Occasionally divorced parents refer to terminating parental rights when talking about one parent having sole custody and the other parent not having any visitation.  Such a situation is not a legal termination of parental rights but a relinquishment of, or limitation upon, exercising those rights.  The non-custodial parent still has rights but no mechanism to implement those rights under the sole custody divorce judgment and would have to seek modification of the judgment to resume exercising their rights.

If parental rights have been legally terminated due to parental unfitness and the child has not been adopted, your state may have a process available to seek reinstatement of parental rights under certain circumstances.  You would need to consult a family law attorney in your state to determine if such an option exists.  The unfitness causing the termination of parental rights would need to be no longer at issue for the parent to have any chance of regaining parental rights that have been terminated for unfitness.

If parental rights were surrendered to allow an adoption, the only means to regain parental rights after 11 years would be if the child were available for the parent to "adopt back" the child.  This would require the child be available for adoption again, either due to the death of the adoptive parent or the adoptive parent surrendering their parental rights, and the other parent would have to agree to the adoption.


Richard Coffee is a Litigation Manager in the Belleville Illinois office of Cordell & Cordell. He is an experienced divorce attorney whose practice is devoted to domestic litigation. He is licensed in the State of Illinois and is admitted to practice law in the U.S. District Courts for Northern, Central and Southern Illinois.

Mr. Coffee has extensive domestic litigation trial experience representing clients in courts throughout Illinois on all aspects of domestic litigation, including the representation of clients who are current or retired military personnel with issues under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act and the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, clients involved in state court jurisdictional disputes due to the relocation of one or both parties from or to Illinois, and clients with government or private pension benefit valuation and division issues. 

End of Content Icon

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *