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Mentally impaired man fights for child custody rights

Earlier this week, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that a man suffering from a mental impairment should not be deprived at least partial custody of his 2 -year-old daughter. The origins of the case go back to March 2012, when Becker County child protections services got worried about the child's placement with her biological mother over issues of child neglect. A district court determined that that the 2-year-old and two other children in the mother's care should be placed into foster care and to terminate the mother parental rights.

Later that year, the mother agreed to voluntarily terminate her parental rights as the father successfully completed parenting classes. Sometime thereafter, Becker County sought to terminate the father's parental rights, citing his mental impairment as a reason.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals subsequently heard evidence from the Becker County Attorney about the ability of the Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, father to raise the child. The County argued that the father, who is in his mid-thirties, suffers from a low IQ of about 73. According to their witnesses, the father has also demonstrated poor judgment in the past by associating with people who have taken advantage of him. Another witness mentioned that the daughter's IQ will soon surpass her father's.

The father's attorney countered with witnesses who attested to the father's character and ability by saying that he supports himself by working at a sandwich shop and has been entrusted with great responsibilities in the operation of the store. The attorney also pointed out that the man's mother currently lives with him and would be able to help out with supervising the child. Ultimately the court decided against terminating the father's parental rights, saying that the County had not shown that his ability to parent was affected by his mental impairment.

This case demonstrates that a parent may still preserve their right to at least partial custody, even against adverse conditions. The father in this case was aided tremendously by his attorney, who managed to put together a compelling argument as to why the father's impairment did not automatically preclude his parental rights. If you know someone who is facing an uphill battle to retain or regain child custody, you should point to this man's story as an example of how effective legal representation can help.

Source: Star-Tribune, "Mental impairment isn't grounds to end parental rights, Minnesota Court of Appeals says" DAVID CHANEN, Apr. 21, 2014

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