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IQ argument rejected, man's paternal rights reinstated

Should IQ play a role in determining parental rights? A recent ruling from the Minnesota Court of Appeals has answered a resounding "no" to that question after considering the case of a man whose paternal rights were terminated only because of a mental impairment. The man in this case is a father in his early 30s whose IQ measures at about 73; although that is below-average, the man is still able to hold down a job and support himself financially.

The man's paternal rights were terminated in 2013 after a psychologist told a Minnesota court that the man was unable to care for his child on a round-the-clock basis. The child was a toddler when the proceedings began; her mother lost parental rights after a court determined that she was neglecting the youngsters. The girl and two other children that were not related to the man were sent to foster care.

After that incident, the man completed a case plan that involved weekly supervised visits. However, he was not given full custody rights to his child because of trial testimony presented by a psychologist and several other witnesses. The appeals court, however, rejected many of the arguments that had been presented during that proceeding. Although the judges agree that the man may need access to additional resources and services in order to effectively parent, they do not agree with the assertion that the man should lose his paternal rights. The man may never become a full-time parent -- only time will tell -- but he will at least have the right to visitation with his daughter.

Parental rights are terminated for a variety of reasons, including abuse and neglect. However, well-meaning parents who simply have lower IQ levels should not be excluded from their kids' lives just because of their supposed lack of intelligence. When courts begin overreaching into family affairs, they run the risk of violating basic fathers' rights. In this case, the Minnesota court scored a "win" for parents throughout the state, protecting certain rights from unfair intrusion.

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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