Parental Rights Lawyers

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What Are Parental Rights?

In a family law context, parental rights refer to a parent’s rights to make important decisions and take certain actions on behalf of their child.  Such rights are generally deemed automatic for biological parents, as well as adoptive parents, foster parents, and in some cases, legal guardians. All parents of children have certain rights such as spending time with the child, making important life decisions

Parental rights generally include:

State laws may vary regarding parental rights.  However, all courts analyze parental rights in line with the best interests of the child. 

Who Is Considered a Parent?

Every state has established the rights and duties of a parent. The definition of a “parent” is not the same in every state. In most states, a child can only have two parents at a time. If the child is adopted, the birth parents no longer have any legal rights or duties for the care taking of the child. In some states such as Alaska and Nebraska, stepparents are also considered to be a child’s parent.

What Are Parental Rights for Non-Biological Parents?

In many cases, a person that is not related to the child may assume full legal and physical custody of a child.  This often happens in the case of adoption, as well as in cases of divorce where one spouse marries a different partner than the child’s biological parent. 

In such cases, non-biological parents generally have the same rights as biological parents, so long as they are legally recognized as the child’s parent.  In some cases, the non-biological parent may even obtain more parental rights than the biological parent.  This happens if the biological parent is unable to fulfill their parental duties due to incapacity or incarceration. 

Can a Court Modify Parental Rights?

Courts do not get involved with family life and important decisions about a child unless something goes wrong and it would be in the child’s best interest to get involved. Courts also have the right to decide which parent should get custody of a child if the parents are going through a divorce. A judge can also make specific rights regarding child visitations, child support, and which parent can make important decisions on the child’s behalf.

What Are Parental Rights After a Parent Has Transferred Custody to Another?

When a parent transfers custody to the other parent, their parental rights might not always be completed terminated.  They may retain some of their rights, especially if physical custody is being split between the parents. 

These retained rights are called “residual parental rights” and may include:

Thus, it’s important for both parents to be clear on parental rights in the instance of divorce or separation, in order to avoid disputes over rights.

Can Parental Rights Be Terminated?

Yes. There are certain situations where parental rights are terminated. This is called “termination of parental rights, and it usually happens when the court sees that a parent is not fit for taking care of the child and it in the child’s best interest to terminate the parent’s rights. In some states, it is possible to reinstate parental rights after termination.

Some grounds for parental rights termination include:

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance With Parental Right Issues?

Understanding parental rights is important for the upbringing of children.  If you have any legal inquiries or need assistance regarding parental rights, you may wish to contact a family law attorney for advice.  Your lawyer can help clarify the parental right laws in your area, and can represent you in court in the event that a lawsuit or dispute arises.

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Last Modified: 07-27-2015 11:05 AM PDT

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