A Divorce Attorney Can Help You Get Full Parental Rights

California Divorce
Divorce is rarely easy or simple, but children in the relationship complicate the legal and emotional processes exponentially. Having a child automatically obligates both parties to assume responsibility for his/her wellbeing, and it also entitles each to parental rights under the law. Rights and responsibilities are inextricably intertwined, but they can be made more complex and confusing during the divorce process. Having a qualified divorce attorney can help you retain full parental rights to your child. What do you need to know?

First, know that there are cases in which parental rights can be terminated. When this happens, the parent know longer has any rights or responsibilities towards the child. This means that he/she is no longer obligated to provide food, shelter, and financial resources, he/she is no longer able to have input into the raising of the child, his education, religion, morals, and other issues. In California, termination of rights can occur when a parent:

  • Abandoned the child or displayed “extreme parental disinterest.”

  • Abused or neglected the child or has abused, neglected, or lost rights to another child.

  • Has a mental illness.

  • Has a drug or alcohol induced incapacity.

  • Has a felony conviction/incarceration.

  • Displays a failure of reasonable efforts to care for the child.

  • Fails to maintain contact.

  • Fails to provide support.

  • Has assaulted or killed child’s sibling.

It is also possible that the family court will terminate rights because it is in the best interest of the child. When one parent’s rights have been terminated, the other retains full rights and responsibilities. If both parents’ rights are terminated, then the child’s guardianship is assumed by the state, and the child may be placed in foster care or in the care of a relative.

In California, every reasonable effort is made to preserve or unify the family. According to statute updates in 2010, rights will not be terminated if “the court finds a compelling reason for determining that termination would be detrimental to the child…” for a variety of reasons. Further, “reasonable efforts” and “reasonable services” need to be provided to help a parent retail parental rights.

The good news for parents who are going through custody and support issues with an ex-spouse or ex-partner is that courts very rarely terminate parental rights. A lawyer, though, can be a tremendous asset. For instance, a married couple tried to get custody of the husband’s daughter from a previous relationship. The ex-partner terminated her rights, and they were assigned to the maternal grandparents without the father’s knowledge. The judge in their case ruled that the father could not have custody because “he had done nothing to show he was interested” in the child. The judge also indicated that he did not want to split up the child from her step-sister, with whom she currently lived, because this would not be in her “best interest.”

In this case, as in countless others, a qualified divorce or family attorney could have helped the father establish or retain rights to the child by demonstrating that he did, indeed, “have an interest” in her and that it would be in her best interest to have her father involved in her life.

There are certainly cases where termination of parental rights is necessary and really in the best interest of the child. Child welfare comes first, but often, it is much more damaging for parents to be absent from a child’s life altogether. If you are fighting to keep your rights, get a lawyer on your side.