Child custody is a very sensitive issue for many parents in the Topeka, KS, area. A difficult child custody determination will influence the lives of the children and parents involved in the case. Many parents have trouble accepting the loss of time to spend with their kids following custody determinations.

When divorcing married parents and unmarried parents need to resolve custody rights with legally binding family court proceedings, these arrangements typically include some measure of custody for each parent, with the details decided based on a range of factors unique to the case. However, it is possible for a parent to completely lose custody rights, either in an initial custody determination or due to future actions. It’s also possible for a parent to voluntarily relinquish their custody rights.

Parents need to know that if a parent loses their custody rights in Topeka, KS, it is tough for them to ever regain them in any meaningful measure. There are separate rules for voluntary and involuntary termination of parental rights, but ultimately any parent who loses their parental rights is unlikely to ever obtain them again. Therefore, every parent should fully understand their obligations under their family court orders, and they must also know the circumstances in which they could lose their parental rights.

How Is Custody Decided in Topeka, KS?

Some parents must resolve custody of their children during divorce proceedings, and unmarried parents may need to settle custody and secure legally enforceable court orders. Whatever the case may be, a judge will need to resolve a custody dispute. The Topeka, KS, family court has a legal obligation to preserve the best interests of any children affected by the court’s decisions. Custody cannot be resolved privately between the parents, and the judge handling their custody determination must weigh numerous factors in their decision.

A judge must ensure that the custody terms they deliver to a child’s parents are suitable for preserving the child’s best interests. The judge must assess each parent’s fitness to handle their child’s needs in determining custody. A joint custody agreement is likely when a judge determines that both parents are fit to raise their children. This would award a set amount of physical custody to each parent based on their availability to handle their child’s everyday needs. Legal custody would be split between the parents, requiring them to work together on making significant decisions for their child.

If a judge determines one parent to be unfit, they will not award that parent any custody rights, and depending on the reason for this decision, the parent may not even receive limited visitation rights.

What Is Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights?

A parent may have their parental rights terminated against their will due to their past behaviors and a judge determining they are unfit to parent. A judge may make this decision during an initial custody determination or in response to issues reported to the family court by the other parent. Some of the most commonly cited reasons for involuntary termination of parental rights in Kansas are:

  • Child abuse or neglect. A judge would be unwilling to grant any measure of custody or visitation rights to a parent who has a confirmed record of harming children, either their own or others’ children, through abuse or neglect. A parent who has committed any such offense likely faces criminal prosecution and loss of their custody rights.
  • Domestic violence. If a parent has committed domestic violence, they are unlikely to secure any substantial custody or visitation rights. The penalties for domestic violence can include loss of parental rights, fines, incarceration, and required adherence to a restraining order.
  • Criminal conviction. A criminal conviction could result in the defendant losing their custody and visitation rights even if their offense had nothing to do with their children or co-parent. If the parent faces long-term incarceration and cannot exercise parental rights or meet parental responsibilities while behind bars, the nature of their offense may indicate they pose a significant danger to their child.
  • Substance abuse. When a parent has an advanced substance abuse disorder, this can directly threaten their child’s safety. However, a parent who loses parental rights due to substance abuse could regain some visitation rights if they prove they have completed a rehabilitation program and maintained sobriety for an extended period.

There are many other reasons a parent could face involuntary termination of their parental rights. Any parent who loses custody and visitation in this manner is very unlikely to ever regain their parental rights. If they intend to try, they must be ready to prove that granting them some measure of custody or visitation would be in their child’s best interests.

Can a Parent Give Up Parental Rights Willingly?

Some parents, unfortunately, do not wish to participate in their children’s lives. A parent does have the right to voluntarily surrender their parental rights, effectively giving the child’s other parent sole custody. However, this does not release them from their child support obligation. A parent who voluntarily surrenders their parental rights would be unlikely to ever regain them. They would still be responsible for child support per the court’s instructions.

The only way a parent can be released from their child support obligation is if a stepparent would like to adopt their child and assume financial responsibility for them. Voluntary termination of parental rights is often a requirement for adoption. If a custodial parent marries and their child’s stepparent is desirous of adopting their child, they will need to have the child’s noncustodial biological parent essentially sign off on the adoption by surrendering their claim to parental rights. This requires signing several forms and submitting them to the court. The court would then investigate to ensure the adoption would suit the best interests of the child.

Ultimately, parents may lose custody and visitation rights in many ways, and adoption cases typically require a noncustodial parent to voluntarily surrender their parental rights. If you face any such situation, you need to consult an experienced Topeka, KS, family law attorney to determine the best approach to your case.