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Recent Minnesota court decision on child custody raises interest

A Detroit Lakes man regained parental rights to his 2½- year-old child this past week, after a court of appeals decided the man's mental impairment was not cause to terminate his status as the girl's father. The man has below-average functioning and an IQ of about 73. He lives with his mother and receives regular visits from social workers. He maintains a regular job, however, opening and closing a local sandwich shop.

Importantly, the ruling does not mean that the girl will live with her father full-time. The child custody arrangement that had placed the child in foster care after the mother consented to termination of her own rights will likely continue, at least for a time. The father was simply fighting for his status as a parent to be recognized by the State of Minnesota.

The man's attorney said the father was overjoyed to have his relationship with his child secured. Had the Court ruled another way, the man may have seen his parental rights terminated indefinitely.

Such a court case is a wake-up call to many parents in Minneapolis. While there may be fights about enforcing a parenting plan or child custody agreement with your ex, a parent's status as the child's mother or father is generally not in dispute.

Certain factors, however, may cause the state to question this conclusion. Drug use, violence and/or neglect are common reasons a court may terminate parental rights. Exes can also request the state review their former spouses ability to retain parental rights.

Those affected by such things can reach out to local St. Paul family law attorneys for help. These professionals can help protect parental rights and ensure the best interests of a child are guarded. As new laws and court decisions come in, parents need to know that there are people willing to help them protect what is most important to them: their relationship with their child.

Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune, "Mental impairment isn't grounds to end parental rights, Minnesota Court of Appeals says," David Chen, April 21, 2014

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