What are parental rights?

If you are a parent, you may wonder what your rights are. Parents have rights related to raising their children and decisions concerning their upbringing and obligations regarding the care and support of their children. Because each family is different, the family law system provides different resources for different situations to help families through the challenges they face. There are legal processes for both the establishment and termination of parental rights.

Parental rights refer to the right of parents to make decisions concerning their child's education, healthcare, religion and other matters of importance. Parental rights also include child custody and visitation rights. Parental rights may be automatic in some circumstances, including the birth of a child to married parents, however, it may be necessary to petition the court for parental rights such a in situations of unmarried parents and when paternity is disputed.

When a father has not claimed paternity rights, or they have not been legally established, the father does not have parental rights. Parental rights can be voluntarily relinquished and can also be terminated in some circumstances. Parental rights may be terminated in circumstances of abuse, neglect, abandonment, when the parent has a long-term mental illness, when the parent has an alcohol or drug problem or if the parent is incarcerated for a period of time.

Parents may experience a variety of emotional and legal challenges related to their child custody and visitation rights. It is helpful for them to understand what their parental rights are, how to enforce them and navigate the resources available to them through the family law system.

Source: Family.findlaw.com, "Parental Rights and Liability," Accessed Oct. 23, 2017

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