When a child’s parents are no longer together there’s usually a pretty heated discussion about what the child’s living arrangements will be. But, in some cases, there are parents who do not have much of an interest in their child’s life. Not only will they peacefully bow out of any custody battle, they’re also willing to allow the other parent full autonomy regarding the parenting decisions and all major decisions in the child’s life. If this is your situation, you may be tempted not to mess with what many going through a custody dispute would consider to be a good thing. However, it may be a good idea to take precautions to prevent your ex from randomly showing up in your child’s life.
What Rights Do Parents Have?
Generally speaking, when a child is born the biological parents are considered to have legal and physical custody of the child, assuming paternity has already been determined. When the biological parents of a child are no longer together, they normally go to court to have a custody arrangement worked out. This prevents conflicts regarding custody schedules, and it also ensures that both parents are able to spend their parent time with the child. If you have court ordered parent time, you have a right to see your child during your parent time. If your ex refuses to allow you to exercise your parent time, you may need to go back to court and have a judge enforce the custody order.
What Does Relinquishing Parental Rights Do?
Under certain circumstances, a parent may relinquish their parental rights. This means that they will no longer have a right to see the child or contact the child. They will not be able to go to court and request a different custody arrangement, or ask for custody in the future. If the court terminates parental rights, the parent will not have an obligation to pay child support or financially contribute to the child’s upbringing at all. Parental rights are terminated only when it’s in the best interest of the child. Since most judges feel as though it’s a child’s best interest to receive child support from both parties, judges usually don’t allow a parent to terminate their rights unless there is a compelling reason to do so or there is someone else who is able to adopt the child in the absent parent’s place.
Establish a Custody Arrangement
If your ex is a voluntarily absent parent, it’s important that you get a custody order. If your ex has no interest in the child’s life, they may allow you to have full custody without much of a fight. If there’s been a prolonged absence, you may decide to ask the court to suspend parent time. This way your ex does not sporadically show up and demand to take the child for parent-time. If the parent been absent for a while, you can petition the court to modify your order and include provisions, such as suspension of parent time pending reunification with the child or other conditions which have to be met before exercising parent time. Judges do not like to mess with custody orders too much. If you’ve had full custody of the child for a substantial amount of time, and the child is thriving, most judges will not be eager to change custody arrangements drastically.
Consider Terminating Parental Rights
You may also consider terminating your ex’s parental rights. If you have remarried, or there’s someone else who’s willing to adopt the child in your ex’s place, you may be able to terminate your ex’s parental rights. As previously mentioned, doing this will also terminate any child support obligation that your ex has. If you’ve remarried and your spouse will have all the parental rights and duties that a biological parent would have. They may also be able to request parent time with the child.
Make Sure Your Child Has Mental and Emotional Support
Children often don’t understand why their other parent is voluntarily absent. Just like some children may struggle to understand why their parents no longer live in the same house, a child may struggle to understand why they only have one parent while other children have two parents who are eager to be a part of their lives. In order to make sure there are no long term mental health consequences, it may be a good idea to see therapy to help your child grieve the loss of a parent.
Protecting Your Rights
At CoilLaw we’re dedicated to helping parents protect their rights. If you’re concerned about protecting your rights, contact CoilLaw today to get started on an initial consultation.