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There’s never a good reason for parents losing their parental rights. Often, it’s due to drug or alcohol abuse, abuse of the child, or neglect that leads to a court relinquishing parental rights. In more extreme circumstances a parent becomes disabled to the point that they can’t properly care for the child. In these situations, one or more guardians must be appointed by the court, usually a relative or foster parent.
In this article, we explain the process of terminating the current guardianship of a minor and regaining parental rights in Iowa and answer the following questions:
- Is it possible to regain parental rights in Iowa?
- How is guardianship terminated in Iowa?
- What is the process to regain parental rights in Iowa?
- What if the current guardian doesn’t want to relinquish guardianship?
There’s never a good reason for parents losing their parental rights. Often, it’s due to drug or alcohol abuse, abuse of the child, or neglect that leads to a court relinquishing parental rights. In more extreme circumstances a parent becomes disabled to the point that they can’t properly care for the child. In these situations, one or more guardians must be appointed by the court, usually a relative or foster parent. While the decision of the court is always made in the best interest of a child, it does not mean that guardianship of a minor is permanent.
Is It Possible to Regain Parental Rights In Iowa?
Yes, like nearly every other state there is a pathway to regaining parental rights in Iowa. However, Iowa law is somewhat ambiguous after 30 days have passed since the termination of the original parent’s parental rights. Whether within the 30-day period or outside, when trying to regain parental rights the original parents must prove to the court that they have resolved the issues leading to the stripping of their parental rights.
How is Guardianship Terminated in Iowa?
There are four reasons for the termination of guardianship in Iowa:
- The child reaches the age of 18.
- The child enters the military, marries, or is declared an adult by court order.
- The child dies before the age of 18.
- The court orders the guardianship terminated.
The fourth item in the list above covers a number of different scenarios that would see the termination of the guardianship. It’s important to understand that the original parents can’t simply state that everything is better, and they want to regain their parental rights. Even if the current guardians don’t object to the termination of the guardianship there is still a court process involved in reinstating parental rights.
What is the Process to Regain Parental Rights in Iowa?
There are three steps to regaining parental rights in Iowa:
- Fill Out the Proper Forms. Parties interested in regaining their parental rights will begin by filling out a Petition to Discharge Guardianship of a Minor. This form can typically be found online or at the county courthouse. It’s advised that you retain an experienced family law attorney before moving forward as they can guide you through the process of regaining your parental rights and can help you prepare and have a successful outcome at the minor guardianship court hearing.
- Inform the Other Parties About the Petition. The petitioner has a legal obligation to notify the current guardian, the minor (if 14 years or older), and any other party that was given notice of the original petition to appoint a guardian. The petitioner (the parent wishing to regain parental rights) must send a Notice of Motion along with the Petition to Discharge Guardianship of a Minor.
- Attend the Minor Guardianship Court Hearing. It is at this hearing that the petitioning parent(s) will make the case of having guardianship of the child terminated and their parental rights reinstated. In order to convince the judge that they are fit to have their parental rights reinstated the petitioner should show:
- They can provide a stable, nurturing home for the child.
- They have a source of income to support themselves and the child.
- They are “fit to resume care for the child.” This usually requires the potential parent to show they have completed a court-ordered rehabilitation program, counseling, drug/alcohol abuse education, etc.
- They have attempted to or are currently making regular contact with the child.
- They have good relationships with the child’s other family members, school, church or community organizations; and
- If the current guardian is contesting the termination the petitioning parent should also bring any evidence that suggests the child’s current home situation is not in the child’s best interest or that the guardian is unfit.
What if the Current Guardian Doesn’t Want to Relinquish Guardianship?
If the current guardian is contesting termination of guardianship and reinstatement of parental rights it will typically lead to a hearing in which both parties will be present and giving evidence to support their claim to be the best guardian for the child. Some of the details the court will look at to determine what is in the best interest of the child include:
- The current relationship the minor has with the parents, guardians, and other members of the family and the child’s current dwelling.
- The petitioning parent’s ability to provide a safe, nurturing and stable home for the child.
- The relative stability of the petitioning parents versus the current guardians.
- The amount of time the minor has spent with the current guardians versus the parents.
- The minor’s input regarding their feeling of safety, stability, and desire to stay in their current situation or live with his or her original parents; and
- How well the parent has tried to establish visitation with the child prior to the court hearing and the guardian’s willingness and ability to facilitate visitation.
Ultimately, the state of Iowa believes that a child spending more time with his or her parents, as long as that relationship is healthy, stable, and nurturing, is in the best interest of the child. However, decisions regarding the child’s well-being and best interest are not taken lightly and it is ultimately up to the judge presiding over the case to determine where the child would most likely thrive.