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The Right and Responsibilities of Parents

We often joke that parenthood doesn’t come with a user manual, so we’re all bumbling around trying to make the best of the situation. While it might be funny to think about, the reality is that parents do have certain legal rights and responsibilities towards their offspring. This article aims to provide an overview of what these are and provide some guidance on how to best fulfil them.

First of all, we need to understand the fundamentals, starting with:

Who is a Parent?

While every country has its own laws and legislation that determine that exact definition of a parent, as well as the associated rights and responsibilities, it is generally accepted that a parent is an individual that has legal custody of a child. It is also accepted that legally, a child cannot have more than two legal parents at a time. For instance, an adopted child’s legal parents would be the adults that have adopted the child, even if they are not biologically related. Also, the biological parents’ legal rights to the child are severed upon adoption.

In certain cases, a parent’s legal rights may be terminated by order of the court. These decisions are usually reserved for cases where extreme neglect or violence toward the child is shown by the parent in question. In cases where both parents’ rights are terminated, the court may appoint a custodian or legal guardian to serve at that child’s parent. Whether a child’s legal parents are biological or court-appointed, they usually enjoy the same rights and responsibilities under the law.

What are Parental Rights?

Under most legislation, parental rights include the right to physical custody, which means reasonable visitation with a child and regular contact if the legal parents are separated or divorced. They also have the right to legal custody, meaning the ability to make major decisions about the child’s health, education, and religious upbringing, the right to pass property to a child via gift or inheritance, and finally, the right to a child’s earnings and to inherit from the child in the event of death.

These rights are shared between both legal parents, although divorced or separated parents may have limitations placed on their legal rights over a child. For example, in some cases, a judge will grant legal or physical custody to only one parent.

What are a Parent’s Legal Responsibilities to a Child?

A parent must meet a child’s basic needs for food, clothing, housing, medical care, and education and raise the child in a way that serves the child’s best interests. Parents also have a financial duty to support their children, which typically continues until each child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school. In most cases, a parent doesn’t have a financial responsibility to a child over 18, unless the child has special needs.

A parent must also serve a child’s emotional and physical needs and protect the child from abuse from the other parent or another household member. Additionally, parents must meet their children’s basic needs for food, clothing, housing, medical care, and education.

Can a Court Change My Rights and Responsibilities?

As we previously mentioned, the law allows for courts to alter and terminate a parent’s rights and responsibilities to a child under certain conditions. For example, if the child’s parents are divorcing, a judge will make specific orders about custody, visitation, and child support payments. In some cases, a judge will order a custody evaluation to determine if one parent should have more custody or legal responsibility for a child. Even if one parent is obligated to pay child support, both parents still have an ongoing duty to support their child. Finally, a custody order may give both parents legal rights over a child but can grant the custodial parent the final say if the parents can’t agree.

Under certain circumstances, courts can limit parental rights, for example, by ordering supervised visitation, which means that a neutral third party supervises all visits between the parent and child. Parents don’t usually lose all parental rights, except in the most extreme cases of abuse or neglect. When a court permanently terminates a parent’s rights, the parent’s financial responsibilities over the child are also terminated.

We hope the information provided in the article has proven useful in helping you gain a basic insight into parental rights and responsibilities. Do you want to see more like this type of content? Let us know in the comments below.

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