Legal Rights and Responsibilities of Parents

By: Kevin JensenJune 3, 2024 -
Legal rights and responsibilities of parents

As a parent, you have specific rights and responsibilities under the law. This impacts your relationship with your children. For example, some parents share legal custody; in other cases, one parent might have sole legal custody. You must protect and defend your rights to do what is best for your children.

At Genesis Family Law & Divorce Lawyers, we can help you. Learn more about your legal rights and responsibilities. Then, contact us for a free case consultation.

Why Should You Know Your Rights as a Parent?

Knowing your rights as a parent empowers you to make informed decisions and stand up for yourself and your children in legal matters.

These rights cover a range of issues, from child custody and visitation to education and medical care, and having this certain knowledge aids collaborative decision-making, often in the child's best interest.

Legal Definition of Parental Rights

Parental rights are the legal entitlements that give parents the authority to make decisions concerning their child's upbringing. These include decisions about education, health care, and religious upbringing. They also encompass the right to direct the child's day-to-day activities and manage their property.

In addition to these rights, parental rights involve protecting and maintaining the child, which includes providing food, clothing, shelter, and safety and ensuring the child receives education and health care. Adoptive parents, biological parents, and, in some cases, legal guardians can all hold these rights.

Understanding the full scope of these rights is essential for effectively managing the duties and privileges that come with parenting.

Custody and Visitation

Custody and visitation

Addressing custody and visitation rights is one of the most critical aspects of family law for parents. These rights determine how parents share and spend time with their children and make decisions about their child's welfare.

Types of Custody Arrangements

There are several types of custody arrangements that parents can have.

Physical custody refers to where the child lives on a day-to-day basis. Legal custody involves decisions about the child's education, health care, and other important matters.

Parents can have joint custody, where two parents both share legal and/or physical custody, or sole custody, where only one parent has one or both types of custody.

Each type of custody has its own implications for how parents interact with their children and each other.

Joint custody requires a high level of cooperation and communication between parents. Sole custody may limit the non-custodial parent's ability and involvement in certain aspects of the child's life.

Setting Up a Mutually Agreeable Visitation Schedule

Creating a visitation schedule that works for both parents and the children is essential for maintaining a stable environment for the child. This schedule should consider the parents' work schedules, the child's school and activity schedules, and each parent's physical location.

The goal is to maximize the child's time with each parent while minimizing disruption to the child's routine. Parents cooperating to create a visitation schedule can greatly reduce conflict and confusion. It also helps the child feel secure and loved by both parents, regardless of the family's restructuring.

If the judge and parents cannot agree on a schedule, the court may intervene and establish a schedule based on the child's best interests.

Child Support Obligations

Child support is a payment that non-custodial parents make to custodial parents. It covers expenses related to the child's upbringing and is intended to provide for their basic needs.

Determining Child Support

The amount of child support is typically determined based on guidelines. These guidelines consider the income of both parents, the number of children, and the custody arrangement.

Each state has its own formula for calculating child support. Generally, these formulas aim to balance the financial contributions of both parents.

Parents must provide accurate financial information when child support is being determined. Misrepresentation can lead to unfair support orders that can be difficult to modify later.

Parents should also understand that child support is intended for the child and is a right that belongs to the child, not the custodial parent.

Enforcement of Child Support Orders

Once a child support order is in place, it is legally enforceable. If the non-custodial parent fails to make payments, legal mechanisms are in place. The custodial parent can use them to collect overdue support. These can include wage garnishment, seizure of tax refunds, and even criminal charges.

Enforcing child support orders is essential for ensuring children receive the financial support they need. Parents should also know that failing to pay child support can have serious legal consequences. These include damage to credit scores, fines, and, in extreme cases, imprisonment.

Modifying Child Support Orders

Child support orders are not set in stone and can be modified if circumstances substantially change. This could include a change in either parent's income, a change in custody arrangements, or a change in the child's needs.

To modify a child support order, the parent seeking the change in court order must petition the court and provide evidence of the changed circumstances.

It is important to handle modifications through the court system rather than making informal agreements with the other parent. Only changes made through the court are legally binding and enforceable, which protects both parents and the child.

Parental Responsibilities

Parents responsibilities

While parental rights grant authority over the child's upbringing, they also have substantial responsibilities. These responsibilities ensure that the child's fundamental needs are met and that the child can grow in a healthy and supportive environment.

Providing for Basic Needs

Parents are legally obligated to provide for their children's basic needs, which include food, clothing, and shelter. The courts take parental responsibility seriously and consider meeting these needs to be a fundamental aspect of that responsibility.

Parents must also ensure their child lives in a safe and stable environment. This means taking reasonable steps to protect the child from harm and providing the supervision necessary to keep the child safe.

If a parent fails to meet these responsibilities, they can face legal action, including the potential loss of custody.

Ensuring Education and Health Care

Parents must also ensure that their child receives an education and appropriate medical care. This includes enrolling the child in school and following up on their academic progress. It also involves taking the child to doctor's appointments and ensuring they receive necessary medical treatments.

Education and health care are critical to a child's development and well-being. Parents who neglect these aspects of care can be held accountable under the law.

Ensuring proper education and health care is also key to preparing the child for a successful adult life.

Decision-Making Authority

One of the most important legal aspects of parental rights is the authority to make decisions on behalf of the child. This authority covers various issues, from the child's daily activities to their overall welfare.

Legal Custody vs. Physical Custody

Legal custody refers to a parent's right to decide about the child's upbringing, including education, health care, and religious instruction.

Physical legal custody refers to where the child lives and the logistical arrangements related to the child's care. Parents can share legal custody even if one parent has primary physical custody.

These types of custody can be awarded solely to one parent or shared between both parties. The court determines what is in the child's best interest when making custody decisions.

Protecting Children's Welfare

Protecting children's welfare

Protecting the child's welfare is a paramount concern in all areas of family law. This responsibility falls on both parents and the legal system.

Reporting Abuse and Neglect

Parents have a legal obligation to protect their children from abuse and neglect. This includes protecting them from harm and reporting any abuse or neglect perpetrated by others. Failing to report known abuse can lead to legal consequences for the parent.

The duty to protect includes seeking help when needed, whether from law enforcement, social services, or medical professionals. Parents must take all reasonable steps to ensure their child's safety and well-being.

Legal Consequences for Failing to Protect

Failing to protect a child from harm can lead to serious legal consequences, including criminal charges. Parents responsible might also face civil penalties, such as losing custody or being ordered to pay damages. The legal system takes the protection of children very seriously, and parents are expected to do the same.

Termination and Modification of Parental Rights

Parental rights can be terminated or modified if continuing to allow these rights would not be in the child's best interest. This serious legal action is generally considered only in extreme situations.

Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights

Grounds for terminating parental rights include severe abuse or neglect, abandonment, long-term mental illness or deficiency, and long-term alcohol or drug-induced incapacity.

In some cases, failure to maintain contact with the child or to provide support can also be grounds for termination. These decisions are made with the child's welfare as the primary consideration.

You Need Legal Representation To Protect Your Rights and Resolve Disputes

Handling parental rights and responsibilities can be complex and emotionally charged. Having the right legal representation can help you understand your rights, fulfill your responsibilities, and protect your relationship with your child. A skilled attorney can guide you through legal proceedings and advocate for you.

Effective legal representation is especially important in disputes over custody, visitation, or child support. An experienced attorney can help ensure that your voice is heard and that the outcomes are fair and in your child's best interest.

Remember, the decisions made in these cases can have long-lasting effects on your and your child's lives.

Get the Right Representation For You From Genesis Family Law & Divorce Lawyers

Get the right representation for you from Genesis Family Law & Divorce Lawyers

At Genesis Family Law & Divorce Lawyers, we understand the challenges and complexities of parental rights and responsibilities.

We understand you might have questions about parental rights and who has physical and legal custody. We want what is best for you and your children.

Contact us today to schedule a case consultation.