Who is a “Good Enough” Parent?

By Rayna Brachmann, Esq.

This is a nearly impossible question to answer, yet family court judges are tasked with this query regularly.  Judges have to assess the best interest of children routinely, and in termination of parental rights cases, have to decide whether a parent has been so lax in their parenting duties as to have what the law refers to as the “civil death penalty” imposed and have their parental rights terminated so a child can be made available for adoption.

This article is an interesting perspective from a psychologist who evaluates parents and makes recommendations to family courts regarding whether their rights to their children should be terminated.

It was particularly noteworthy to consider the observation that different classes have different parenting expectations and parents with more money have more latitude when it comes to correcting their children.  The level of scrutiny on a wealthier parent is less than that on a parent who struggles with poverty.

There are no easy answers regarding terminating a parent’s parental rights.  On the other hand, children languishing for extended periods of time in foster care is also not reasonable for the children.  Psychologists do have standardized criteria when making recommendations to Family Courts regarding the bond between a parent and child, but there is no doubt that subjective criteria can and does impact recommendations made to the court regarding whether a parent can rectify the circumstances which brought the matter before the court.  In cases with a skilled attorney, those biases can be addressed on cross examination, but many cases like this do not involve counsel, and the job facing judges is even more challenging as a consequence.

Kimberly Surratt served for eight years on the executive council and has been the vice chair and then chair of the State Bar of Nevada Family Law Section. In addition, she is the President-Elect of the Nevada Justice Association and the chair of the domestic lobbying committee. She has lobbied with the Nevada Justice Association since 2004.

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