While Minnesota doesn’t recognize parental rights as fundamental rights, parents generally have the freedom to have and raise their children according to their own personal beliefs and values. However, if a parent causes their child’s welfare or life to be at stake, the state will intervene and in certain circumstances, terminate their parental rights.
The termination of parental rights can be either voluntary or involuntary depending on the situation.
What Is Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights?
Also known as severance, voluntary termination happens when a parent or parents choose to voluntarily terminate their parental rights. There are several reasons that may prompt a parent to give up their parental rights, including:
- Long-term addiction
- Mental illness that endangers the child
- Making way for an adoption
Voluntary termination of parental rights is often a difficult and heart-wrenching decision a parent makes when they realize they are unable to properly care for their child. It’s worth noting that Minnesota courts don’t allow voluntary termination solely on the basis of no longer wanting to care for a child or pay child support. While a parent may lose custody of their child, they may still be responsible for paying child support to the custodial parent or legal guardian.
What Is Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights?
As the name implies, involuntary termination of parental rights happens when a parent objects to losing their parental rights but does so anyway.
When a person’s parental rights are terminated, he or she can no longer make any decisions regarding the upbringing of their child.
In general, Minnesota recognizes the following circumstances as legal grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights:
- Neglect: Examples of neglect include refusal or inability to provide a child with food, shelter, clothing, education and medical care.
- Abandonment: Examples of abandonment include a non-custodial parent refusing to visit their child, leaving the child with friends and relatives for an extended period of time without their consent or deserting the child. The latter can also lead to criminal charges.
- Unfit parent: If a parent is mentally ill or struggles with substance abuse, they may be considered unfit to raise their child and their parental rights may be revoked.
- Not providing financial assistance: A parent who refuses to pay child support without providing a good reason or seeking changes to support agreements through the proper legal channels may have their parental rights taken away by a court.
- Egregious harm: A parent who allows or inflicts physical or mental harm on their child will likely have their parental rights terminated.
- Criminal conviction: A parent with a serious criminal conviction, such as murder, assault or sexual abuse of their own child or other children may be deprived of their parental rights.
What Happens When the State Becomes the Legal Guardian of a Child?
At this point the child’s parents have no legal rights to them. The state must now place the child in the custody of a legal guardian who can provide them with a safe and nurturing environment. Typically, children who are taken away from their parents are placed with relatives, in foster care or adopted by a new family who takes on the responsibility of raising them in a loving and supportive home.
Ideally the state will be able to find the child’s close relatives, such as grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins or adult siblings who can step in and raise the child. This is known as kinship care because the child typically has an existing relationship with the relative, meaning there’s a kinship bond between them. A kinship caregiver may be able to adopt a child some time down the road and become their legal parent.
Are You Involved in a Legal Battle Over Parental Rights? Get Help from a Minnesota Family Law Attorney
Whether you’re trying to have your parental rights reinstated, wish for the other parent of your child to have their rights terminated or wish to become an emancipated minor, it’s important to work with a skilled, local family law attorney.
If you’re in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area and need legal representation, call the Minnesota Lawyer Referral and Information Service (MNLRIS) at (612) 752-6699. One of our referral counselors will be happy to connect you with an experienced marriage and family law attorney.