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Parental Rights

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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.

Parental rights generally include:

  • The right to assume legal and physical custody of the child or children;
  • Rights towards child visitation and contact
  • Rights to make decisions regarding medical treatment for the child
  • The right to enter into a contract on behalf of a minor child
  • The right to pass property to a child through inheritance

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

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. 

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:

  • Rights to visit the child (“visitation rights”)
  • Rights to consent to the child’s adoption
  • Rights to conclude on the child’s religious participation

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.

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.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 03-06-2018 02:56 AM PST

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