Posts tagged ‘Parental Rights’
By Jeffery M. Leving
A mother recently regained custody of her newborn baby from DCFS after being accused of placing her baby face-down in a water-filled toilet bowl during a family party. Last week, the body of a decomposed newborn was discovered in the same mother’s Belleville, Illinois home. The Illinois “Safe Haven” law (Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act, 325 ILCS 2/1, et seq.) is an emotional reaction to this type of tragedy. We can no longer continue to ignore the rights of disenfranchised fathers to protect their children from neglect and worse.
Since “Safe Haven” became a law in Illinois in August 2001, 54 Mothers illegally abandoned their babies in non-approved locations, with 27 of the babies dying.
The Illinois “Safe Haven” law was born out of good intentions to protect infants from literally being thrown into garbage cans and otherwise left to die. However, the manner in which this law and others throughout America are written have created a number of problems for both children and their fathers.
First, the anonymity given to the mother by the “Safe Haven” laws leaves little or no chance that the father will be contacted so that he can pursue custody or protect his child from harm. In fact, in the case of a mother dropping off a child forever pursuant to a “Safe Haven” law, the father does not even need to really be notified. In contrast, in a legal adoption proceeding, the father has to formally relinquish his parental rights.
Secondly, there is an unhealthy gender disparity in our system. Fathers who walk away from parenthood are labeled “deadbeat dads”, or may even go to jail for failing to fulfill their financial responsibilities. On the other hand, mothers who walk away from their babies are protected by the “Safe Haven” laws from any legal and financial accountability and are often viewed as courageous.
Finally, and most importantly, the impact “Safe Haven” laws have on abandoned children must be addressed. The children are denied the chance to grow up with their dads or any other biological family members. They are also denied the right to know their true identity and medical history, which can create a potentially life-threatening situation.
Statistics show that in spite of “Safe Haven” laws, children continue to be thrown away in dumpsters. The “Safe Haven” laws need to be rewritten to protect the children whose mothers are disposing of them; and to protect the fathers who have the right to know that their children exist so they can protect them from harm, death and abandonment.
Jeffery M. Leving is one of America’s most prominent family law attorneys. His website is www.dadsrights.com.
By Shahzad R. Khan, Esq.
People come to America seeking new opportunities, new ways of life, and seeking new forms of freedoms. They come with a certain understanding of America. But, they do not understand everything. They come with certain misconceptions that they heard from family members or friends who had previously made the journey. But the most common thing about all immigrants is that they come to America, or to any other new country, with a fear of the unknown.
When the pilgrims left for the new world, they feared what lied ahead. The immigrants who passed through Ellis Island had those same fears. And immigrants arriving today through JFK, O’Hare, LAX or any of the hundreds of ports of entry share many of the same fears as the first immigrants of this country did.
I know these fears, because both my parents were immigrants. I also know these fears because my wife is an immigrant. There is a real fear of the unknown. There is a fear about asking questions. There is a fear about taking action. And there is a great fear that if I do take action, there will be a penalty. Sometimes people from all sorts of cultural communities remain silent about an injustice because of the fear of retribution and the fear that if I ask questions or raise questions that scrutiny will be focused on me and that somehow my immigration status will be jeopardized.
Whether you are a green card holder, a person with asylum status, a person with refugee status or no status at all you do still have rights. You have human rights and rights under the laws of this country and its 50 states.
In family law, the area that I practice in, you have the following legal rights regardless of your immigration status:
Obtaining a Divorce: A divorce is the process by which two people terminate a marriage. Whether you were married in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or any other country in the world you can petition the court for a divorce in the State of Illinois or any of the other states where appropriate. Remember a person’s immigration status is usually irrelevant when seeking a divorce. There are technical issues that need to be considered before you file for divorce such as residency requirements for the individual state, issues pertaining to whether your current immigration status may be affected by divorce, and grounds necessary to dissolve the marriage. It is important that you consult an attorney before you make a decision to proceed in this direction.
Obtaining an Order of Protection: An Order of Protection is a court order that protects a person who has been abused physically, emotionally, or sexually by a family member, a former or current spouse or significant other or a member of the household. Orders of Protection are not only obtained for adults, but also for the protection of children. Again, no matter what your immigration status may be, there is no restriction in obtaining an order of protection for protection against domestic violence.
Paternity and Child Support: You have the right to determine whether you are the father of a minor child born out of wedlock. The process of determining fatherhood is done through the use of DNA testing of the mother, the alleged father and the child. If paternity is determined, meaning the alleged male is determined to be the father of the minor child, then the custodial parent of that child has the right to seek child support from the non-custodial parent. The non-custodial parent has the right to seek visitation, custody (joint or sole custody) to meet the best interests of the minor child. Again, no matter what your immigration status may be, there is no restriction on filing a petition to determine parentage and to establish parental rights.
Besides the rights stated above, there a numerous other rights that immigrants possess in not only family law but in other areas of law. The key here is to ask questions and not be afraid to ask for help. It is not what you know that can hurt you, but what you do not know. Therefore, study the legal system and educate yourself so you do not end up a target looking for an arrow. Should you need help in any family law matter or you just have some general questions, please contact Attorney Shahzad R. Khan at the Law Offices of Jeffery M. Leving, Ltd., to discuss your rights.