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The Power of Parents: What Are Parental Rights?

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“I’ve brought you into this world, and I can take you out of it,” is said by many exasperated parents. While parents can’t “take their kids out,” they do have a surprising amount of power over their children due to their parental rights. What are these parental rights and how do they impact the parent-child relationship?

Parental Rights: Custody

Parents have the legal responsibility (and privilege) to assume custody of their children. Child custody comes in two forms in Mississippi: legal custody and physical custody.

Legal Custody

Legal custody is the right parents have to make important legal decisions on behalf of their children.

Some items that fall under the legal custody category include:

  • A child’s education;
  • A child’s health;
  • A child’s welfare.

Parents who have legal custody of their children can decide whether they’re homeschooled, enrolled in private school, or enrolled in public school. Additionally, parents who have legal custody of their children can decide when their children go to the hospital, what treatment option will be used under the doctor’s care, and a child’s religious upbringing.

Legal custody is only one of the custody rights parents have; the other custody right is physical custody.

Physical Custody

Physical custody is the right parents have to be with their children physically. Physical custody can refer to the time a child is residing with a parent, or the time the child is under the care of one of the parents. Therefore, a parent doesn’t have to house a child to have physical custody of the child. Nearly all parents have the right to physical custody of their children.

Differences Between Legal & Physical Custody

There is a vast difference between legal and physical custody, as nearly all parents have the right to some physical custody of their children, but many parents do not have legal custody of their children (either due to divorce or having a child born out of wedlock.)

Parents who have physical custody of their children get to care for their physical well-being at times; however, they cannot make legal decisions on their child’s behalf. Parents who have legal custody of their children will automatically have physical custody of their children.

If parents can have physical custody of their children, but not have legal custody, that means parents can lose their parental rights. Let’s examine how parents can lose their rights.

How Parents Lose Their Rights

When children are born, their parents automatically gain parental rights over them. While parents automatically gain parental rights, they can involuntarily lose them in a variety of ways.

Parents can involuntarily lose their parental rights when they:

  • neglect;
  • sexually abuse;
  • physically abuse;
  • abandon;
  • become mentally-ill to the point they can’t care for; or
  • fail to support or contact their child.

Parents can also lose their rights by giving up their children for adoption. When parents give up their children for adoption, they automatically terminate their parental rights while the adoptive parents take on parental rights.

Divorce & Parental Rights

After a divorce, a parent’s rights concerning the physical and legal custody of their children may change. Children can’t live with both parents simultaneously, which means parents will undoubtedly see a difference in the physical custody they have over their children. In some circumstances, parents may lose legal custody over their children due to the physical custody arrangement they’re willing to agree on.  

Parental Rights & Family Law

Unfortunately, parental rights can be complicated legal matters. If you are looking to get divorced, it can significantly impact your parental rights. Additionally, if you’re a single mother and want child support, you may have to establish paternity before you can collect payments.

If you have questions concerning parental rights as they pertain to divorce, paternity, or anything else; feel free to call Hancock Law Firm for a confidential consultation.

Regardless of your family law needs, Hancock Law Firm is here to help you! Call (601) 853-2223 now for a free consultation!

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