Often in divorce proceedings, one of the most difficult and painful fights that occurs is child custody. While this is probably not surprising for most people, what might be surprising is what rights a parent has in a divorce proceeding, when it comes to determining what happens with their children. Those rights, and how a parent chooses to exercise them, can have incredible consequences for them, and for the rest of their family.
First, it’s important to understand that it’s not just the married parents of a child that have parental rights. Obviously, any child born to a married couple belongs to both parents, and those parents have custodial rights over that child. However, even when a child is born out of wedlock, the mother of the child always has custodial rights over the child by default. Additionally, the unmarried father of a child can claim custodial rights over the child if he signs a voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form, at which point he becomes legally recognized as the father of the child, whether he and the mother later marry or not.
Second, while a parent does have custody over their children by default, and a right to visit and spend time with their children, that right is subject to the court’s determination as to what is in the best interests of the child. If the court decides that, for whatever reason, a parent’s presence in a child’s life would be detrimental to the child’s well-being, those rights can be revoked. While uncommon, there are five grounds on which a court will revoke a parent’s custody and visitation rights: abandonment, permanent neglect, mental illness, mental retardation, and severe and repeated abuse. If a parent meets any of those criteria, the court may decide to revoke a parent’s rights to custody and visitation entirely.
Finally, it’s important to remember that parental rights come with parental responsibilities. Although it shouldn’t need to be said, a parent is supposed to care for their child, ensuring they are properly fed and clothed and have a roof over their heads, at least insofar as they are able to provide those things. Parents are also supposed to get their children timely medical care and do what they can to keep them away from hazardous places and things. If a parent neglects these responsibilities, or worse, deliberately deprives a child of their necessities, it’s quite possible that a parent will lose their parental rights.
If you’re going through a divorce and fighting for custody over your children, you’ll need legal representation to get the best outcome possible. The matrimonial attorneys at the Marnell Law Group have the knowledge and experience you need to fight for your rights as a parent. Give us a call at (516)-542-9000 or send us a message through our contact page.