Absent Parent Rights
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Absent Parent Rights
Absent biological parents do have parental rights. Not only does the law recognize that biological parents have a fundamental and constitutional right to parenting, but the law also recognizes that biological parents have certain legal duties.
All biological parents have the legal right to make legal and medical decisions on behalf of the children. The law recognizes these parental rights regardless of the level of parental involvement in the child’s life.
However, in many situations, one parent is absent. An absent parent is a parent that appears to have abandoned the child. Most states label a parent as an absent parent when he or she has not seen the child in at least four months. The biological parent who is caring for the child is then forced to raise the child on their own. The child misses out on important bonding with a parent when that parent is absent. However, the law does not automatically terminate parental rights simply by virtue of a parent being absent.
In addition to parental rights, the law also requires that parents perform certain duties, including:
- A duty to care for the child
- A duty to provide for the child
When an absent parent violates his or her duties, usually for at least four months, the biological parent can attempt to terminate the parental rights of the absent parent.
Termination of Parental Rights
In order to request that an absent parent’s parental rights be terminated, the biological parent must prove the absent parent either:
- Abandoned the child
- Neglected or abused the child
- Is unfit to parent the child
- Has abused the biological parent, or
- Is not the actual biological parent of the child
Abandonment is the most common ground for requesting termination of an absent parent’s parental rights. In most states, the biological parent must show that the absent parent has not seen or contacted the child in at least four months.
However, most courts are hesitant to completely terminate parental rights. Many courts will consider the termination request but will only grant the request if and only if a stepparent is also trying to adopt the child. This will ensure that the child has at least two legal parents on which to rely on for love, support, and care.
If you are an absent parent and your rights have been terminated, you are no longer considered the legal parent of the child under the law. You have no legal right to make any decisions for the child. You are not entitled to custody or visitation. You cannot object to any stepparent that initiates an adoption procedure. You are also not required to pay child support.
Do I Need an Attorney to Terminate Parental Rights?
Terminating the rights of an absent parent can be extremely complex and burdensome, especially if the absent parent cannot be located. The burden of proof will be on the biological parent filing the petition. Consult with a family law attorney to discuss your options, help you gather information and evidence, and navigate the petition process for you.
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Last Modified: 04-24-2015 10:32 AM PDT
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