Seattle Custody Lawyers to Help Resolve Your Parental Rights Disputes
Our Seattle custody lawyers are often asked questions about parental rights. Rights of parents fall into several broad categories and our family law firm is happy to answer your questions and settle your disputes.
What Do Parental Rights Cover?
As a general rule, parents have the right to raise their children as they see fit. We decide how to feed, educate, house, discipline, etc. We can decide to move our children to another state or even another country. We can decide what religion to raise our children in, or to raise them with no religion.
However, there are limitations on this right to decide how our children are raised. One limitation is that children also have a right to be protected from abuse and neglect. Sometimes the state creates standards that impinge on the parental rights, such as requiring that children receive an education.
If children are abused or neglected, the state may intervene. This intervention can range from entering specific court orders, to arranging services for the family, to removing the children from the home and placing them in foster care.
Similarly, relatives and others with a relationship to the children can petition the court for custody or visitation if the parents are unable to properly care for their children, or even potentially in other situations where it appears to be in the best interests of the children. If someone is petitioning for custody or visitation as to your child, or you need to bring such a petition, talk to one of our Seattle custody lawyers as soon as possible.
There can also be other laws providing protections for children, such as privacy laws that protect the medical and other records of children above a certain age.
Rights Between Parents
Absent a court order, parents both have the same rights, so neither parent has rights which are superior to the rights of the other parent. This means, for instance, that neither parent has a right to keep the other parent away from the child. It also means that both parents have similar rights to make decisions. Either parent can sign a note allowing the child to go on a field trip, but neither parent can take that right away from the other parent. If the parents disagree about a decision, then they need to find a way to work out a solution as neither has the ability to force their own opinion on the other.
However, if a biological parent has not been established as a legal parent (for instance, if they are not on the birth certificate and were not married to the other parent) or paternity hasn’t been determined legally, then they would not normally have any established parental rights and the other (legal) parent’s rights would be superior for the time being. If that parent wants to have such rights, then they may need to ask the court to make a finding that they are in fact a parent of the child. This is typically done by filing a “Petition to Decide Parentage”.
When parents are separated, it is normal to ask a court to establish separate rights for each parent. This is usually done in a parenting plan. When this has been done, each parent then has specific rights as to the other parent. The parenting plan determines when each parent has a right to have the children with that parent, as well as clarifying other issues such as transportation and decision making. If you need to establish parenting rights, give us a call to make an appointment with one of our Seattle custody lawyers.
Termination of Parental Rights
While sometimes a parent’s rights may be significantly restricted in a parenting plan if the court feels that is needed to protect the children from abuse or neglect, a parenting plan does not usually cut off parental rights and responsibilities entirely. It is generally seen as being in the child’s best interest to have some contact with each parent, even if that contact needs to be very limited.
The courts also do not like to terminate parental rights and responsibilities of a parent without having another person step into the parental shoes. For this reason, we generally only see complete termination of a parent’s rights in adoption cases. In other words, the biological parent’s rights may be taken away and given to the adoptive parent.
If you have any questions about termination of parental rights, talk to one of the Seattle custody lawyers at Seattle Divorce Services.
Do I Need to Hire Seattle Custody Lawyers to Change My Child’s Name?
Changing the name of a child in Washington requires the filing of a petition for name change. It is unlikely that the court will allow the name change if both parents are not in agreement, unless there are additional good reasons to do so (such as protecting the child from domestic violence), or if the other parent has failed to formally contest the name change.
Also, if the child is 14 or older, their consent may be required as well.
A name change may often be done in the course of an adoption proceeding.
For questions about changing a child’s name, call us to discuss your case with a Seattle child custody lawyer.
What is Child Emancipation?
A child of 16 or 17 may petition the court to be emancipated. If the parents oppose the emancipation, the child will need to show the court that they may be harmed by a denial of the emancipation. If the court does order the child emancipated, then the child will be treated as an adult for certain purposes. The emancipated child is responsible for his or her own support and finances (the parents have no further duty to support), and for making other kinds of decisions as well. The child can be bound by contracts, make their own medical and educational decisions, etc.
However, the emancipation does NOT change the child’s status as a child for other purposes such as voting, buying alcohol, or criminal prosecution.
If you need to know more about child emancipation, let one of our Seattle custody lawyers help you.
If the Parents Are Not Living Together, Does the Mother Have the Right To Custody?
No, any custody decisions are up to the court to decide based on the specific circumstances of the case. This is why there can be problems when parents separate without any specific agreement about residence of the child. If one parents takes the child with them when they leave, the other parent does not have any specific ability to force them to return the child. In those situations, the best thing is to get into court as quickly as possible to have some decisions made regarding residential schedule and parenting of the child. One of our Seattle custody lawyers can assist you with filing for child custody orders.