In nearly all cases, a parent has rights to his or her child. These rights include the right to seek a custodial arrangement for the child or when this is not possible, the right to visitation with the child as well as the right to seek child support to help cover the costs of raising a child. Parental rights also include the right to claim a child as a dependent on one’s tax return and on one’s healthcare insurance. These rights exist for the purpose of supporting a consistent relationship between a child and his or her parent, which is linked to healthier psychological and emotional growth in the child.
Parental rights are an important topic in family law. A child can only have two legal parents, so if one of his or her parents’ partners wants to complete a stepparent adoption, the other must have his or her parental rights terminated, either by doing so voluntarily or by having the court do it. Parental rights also grant a parent the right to make determinations for the child, including keeping the other parent from making certain choices, such as the choice to move out of Wisconsin or the choice to place the child for adoption.
Often, but not always, fathers are the parents at risk of having their parental rights terminated. Wisconsin Fathers for Children and Families is a nonprofit organization that provides fathers with resources and support to advocate for themselves and remain active in their children’s lives. Parent Connection is another advocacy group serving the Oshkosh area that provides resources to parents of both sexes.
When there is a stepparent or another adoptive party available to become a child’s legal parent, it is fairly easy for a parent to voluntarily terminate his or her parental rights. When this is not the case, it can be difficult because in many cases, losing a parent this way puts the child at greater risk of suffering developmentally and requiring state support.
It is also quite difficult to complete an involuntary termination of parental rights. There are numerous grounds the court may use to make this determination, such as the parent’s abandonment of the child, the parent’s abuse of the child, the parent’s sexual abuse of the other parent, and the parent’s failure to assume his or her responsibilities to the child.
As discussed above, if the court finds that you are unfit to care for your child, it may terminate your parental rights. This can happen in cases involving criminal activity or substance abuse as well as other issues that prevent you from being a competent caregiver. If you are in this position, you have the right to be notified of any applicable grounds for the termination and the right to have a lawyer represent your case to defend your rights.
When a the reason for terminating a parent’s rights is the child’s continuing need for protection or services, the parent has six months to make and demonstrate progress to the court to have his or her rights reinstated.
The parent loses the right to have any contact with the child or make any decisions on the child’s behalf. He or she also loses the right to take any legal action to establish a relationship with the child. All of these rights belong solely to the child’s other parent, or if another adult has adopted the child, to this adult and the other biological parent. It is then at their discretion to define the child’s relationship with the parent whose rights were terminated, if they permit the child to have a relationship with him or her at all before the child turns 18.
If you are facing the prospect of having your parental rights terminated, if your parental rights have been terminated, or if you want to have your former partner’s parental rights terminated because you feel this would be in your child’s best interest, start working with an experienced Appleton family law attorney. Parental rights are a delicate issue and to terminate them, the court must have a substantial amount of evidence that shows that doing so is in the child’s best interest. Contact our team of child custody lawyers in Appleton at Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC today to set up your initial consultation in our office, during which we can identify the most productive course of action for your case.