Although the courts will recognize a parent’s rights in most situations, there are times when it is necessary to terminate parental rights. This can be done either voluntarily or involuntarily, but such legal action is reserved for only the most extreme cases. Establishing and terminating parental rights is never a simple process. A Appleton parental rights attorney can help you obtain the best possible outcome in your case.
Unmarried people sometimes have a child together and in these cases, sole custody is usually given to the mother unless paternity is established. Paternity can be established voluntarily at the time of birth, or either the mother or the father can take the matter to court. A mother may wish to take an alleged father to court to establish paternity so she can collect child support.
Establishing paternity in these cases will have many outcomes. For example, while a mother may be able to collect child support after establishing paternity, she may also have to provide visitation time with the child. The father may even dispute the most recent decision made by the court and try to obtain primary child custody. It is for this reason that anyone wishing to establish paternity should speak to a Appleton parental rights attorney who can protect their best interests.
Like mothers, all fathers have certain rights to their children unless they have taken specific action to relinquish those rights. It is sometimes more difficult for fathers to protect those rights, though. Due to the fact that women carry children through pregnancy, it is fairly easy to establish maternity. Establishing paternity is not as easy.
Still, you may need to establish paternity if you want to receive child custody or visitation with your child. The family courts in Appleton prioritize a child spending time with both of their parents, so it is important to fight for these rights. When making decisions on child custody matters, the courts will only consider the child’s best interests. A few of the factors a judge will consider when making child custody decisions are as follows:
- The preference of the child, when they are of a certain age and maturity
- Whether the child will have to move schools
- The physical and mental health of each parent
- The safety of the child
- Any previous criminal history of either parent
Establishing paternity can result in a change of child custody orders. However, it could also result in child support obligations for either party.
Voluntarily Terminating Parental Rights
In some cases, a parent may wish to voluntarily terminate their parental rights. For example, if one parent’s new spouse wants to adopt a minor child, they may ask the other parent to terminate their parental rights voluntarily so they can do that.
Due to the very nature of voluntarily terminating parental rights, and the fact that the parent in question is agreeing to it, many people think the process is fairly simple. Unfortunately, it is not. The family courts in Appleton are reluctant to terminate a person’s parental rights, particularly if they suspect the termination will increase the likelihood of the child needing public assistance due to the loss of the parental income.
Most people attend a court hearing to terminate their parental rights. During the hearing, the judge will inform the individual about the ramifications associated with the termination and make sure the person is in full agreement with it. The judge will also make sure that the parent forfeiting their rights has the mental capacity to do so, as those without the legal capacity generally cannot take such legal actions.
When a court hearing is not possible, parents can voluntarily forfeit their rights by providing an official statement that gives written consent. Within the official statement, the parent should also state that they are aware of the consequences of forfeiting their rights, and that they have the full mental capacity to agree to the termination.
Involuntarily Terminating Parental Rights
In certain circumstances, one parent may have to petition the court to terminate the other parent’s rights. The courts are also reluctant to take this action because it is presumed that it is in a child’s best interests to maintain a relationship with both of their parents. To involuntarily terminate one’s parental rights, the party petitioning the court must have certain grounds to do so.
Abandonment is one of the most common reasons one parent seeks to terminate the other’s parental rights. Abandonment occurs in one of two ways. If a parent leaves their child with another party and fails to communicate with the child for six months, the courts may deem that as abandonment. The second way abandonment can occur is if the court places the child with a party other than their parent and the parent does not communicate with them for three months.
The courts take involuntary termination of parental rights extremely seriously. A judge’s decision will depend on what is in the best interests of the child, the other relationships the child has within the family, and the stability of the family environment after the termination.