Parental authority is the set of rights and obligations parents have that lets them make decisions for their children until they turn 18.
In rare cases, parents can lose the right to make decisions about their children. This article explains when this might happen.
When Parental Authority Is Taken Away
A parent can lose all or part of parental authority. Only a judge can take it away. It is a very serious step and is a decision that judges must consider carefully. In legal terms it’s called “depriving” a parent of parental authority.
To take parental authority away from a parent, an “application for deprivation of parental authority” must be presented to a judge.
The application must show that
- there’s a serious reason for taking away some or all parental authority, and
- taking it away is in the best interests of the children.
The law doesn’t mention what is considered a serious reason.
However, judges have said that serious reasons include when parents put their children in danger or when parents don’t carry out their duties toward the children and there is no excuse.
Judges have removed parental authority from parents in these types of situations:
- parents abandoned the children
- sexual abuse
If a parent is in jail, this alone is not considered a serious enough reason for taking away parental authority.
Consequences of Losing Parental Authority
When parents lose their parental authority, they lose their rights toward their children, but they still have certain obligations toward them.
Parents Who Lose Parental Authority
- The parents lose their rights toward the children. For example, they don’t have the right to make decisions about their children’s education.
- They still have the obligation to help pay for their children’s needs by making support payments.
- There’s a chance that someone will adopt their children.
- They can’t inherit from their children if their children die before they do.
- The children don’t have an obligation to help their parents if they are in financial need, unless a judge orders them to.
- Children with the same last name as a parent who has lost parental authority keep that name. However, they can ask the court for a name change.
- They can still inherit from a parent who has lost parental authority if the parent dies without a will.
Getting Back Parental Authority
Parents who have lost all or part of their parental authority can ask a judge to get it back.
The parents must prove the following:
- major changes have taken place in their lives or in their children’s lives
- they have settled their problems
- they can take on their responsibilities as parents
- the children won’t be harmed if parental authority is given back
There is an exception. If someone else has adopted the children, a parent who has lost parental authority will never get it back.