All parents have rights and obligations to their children, even a parent who is in prison. There are complications that arise when a parent is incarcerated, but it remains possible for the parent/child relationship to survive a prison term. The state of Florida publishes a comprehensive guide to help incarcerated parents understand their rights and obligations to their families.
A parent who is incarcerated can make certain decisions regarding the care of his or her child:
- Child support obligation — If a prisoner was obligated to pay child support prior to incarceration, that obligation continues during the prison term. A supporting parent can submit a motion for support modification, which might include a request to reduce or suspend payments in light of the prison sentence.
- Visitation — As long as the offense did not involve child abuse or sexual misconduct, an incarcerated parent can petition for visitation rights. A child under 17 must be accompanied by a court-approved adult. The court tries to always rules in the best interest of the child, and visitation might be denied or canceled if the child finds the experience traumatic.
- Guardianship — An imprisoned parent may select both a legal and physical guardian for a child if necessary. A relative may care for a prisoner’s child, or the child might be placed in a foster home. Note however, that the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 specifies that the court may terminate the parental rights of an incarcerated parent after a child has spent 15 months in foster care, so that the foster family can formally adopt the child.
If you are a parent serving a prison term, know your parenting rights. A parents’ rights attorney can assist you in being the best parent you can under these difficult circumstances. Call the Law Office of Kenneth C. Gallagher at 407-897-1119, or contact us online.