Father with mental impairment has parental rights restored by court

Lower court had ruled that man's low IQ justified the termination of parental rights

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has ruled that a Detroit Lakes man's mental impairment cannot be used as justification for terminating his parental rights, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The court's decision overturns a lower court's ruling that found that it was in the child's best interests to have her father's parental rights terminated.

Lower court rules against father

This case began in 2012 when child protection services in Becker County became concerned about the welfare of the child while she was in the mother's custody. The girl, along with two of her siblings, was placed in foster care after it was found that they were being neglected by the mother. The mother agreed to terminate her parenting rights.

Soon afterwards, the father agreed to a case plan that permitted him weekly supervised visits with his daughter and required him to take parenting classes. Becker County, however, decided in 2013 to seek termination of the father's parental rights by arguing that the man's mental impairment prevented him from being a good father. The father has an IQ of about 73, which is below average.

Witnesses during that case testified that the man lacked good judgment and that his daughter would soon surpass him in mental functioning. The father countered that he had already cared for his daughter several times without incident and that if he had any problems he would contact county authorities or his mother for help. The court, however, decided that the girl would be better off in a stable home and thus terminated the father's parental rights.

Appeals court overturns decision

The father then appealed the decision and the Minnesota Court of Appeals agreed to hear the case. As with all child custody cases, the appeals court had to determine what was in the best interests of the child.

The court decided that the man's mental impairment did not actually present an obstacle to his ability to be a good parent. It was noted that the man financially supports himself and that he receives some help raising the girl from his mother, who also lives with him.

The court also concluded that the lower court was merely speculating when it decided that the father's mental impairment could lead to poor decisions in the future. As such, the father's rights were restored, although it has not yet been determined if he will be a full-time parent. The county says it will still work with the father and it has not yet decided whether it will appeal the latest decision.

Deciding child custody issues

As the above case shows, every child custody issue is unique to the family involved. While it may be tempting for some parents to represent themselves when trying to gain custody of a child, the truth is that parental rights are best defended by qualified family law lawyers. A family law lawyer with years of experience can help his client resolve outstanding child custody issues following a divorce in a way that helps a parent maintain a close relationship with his or her child.