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  • Amy Macdonald

PARENTAL RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES: why responsibilities are imperative

Updated: Sep 5, 2021

Introduction

We, as a society, usually focus on what our rights are and what we are entitled to. There is very rarely a moment when we stop to think about our responsibilities. Have you ever thought that other peoples rights are your responsibility? For example, everyone has the right to not be abused. We all accept that abuse is wrong. We all accept that we have a right to not be abused. However, we also have a responsibility to ensure that we are not abusing another person. If we abuse another person, we are breaching their rights. So we all have a right and a responsibility to enforce that right.

“With so much weight being given to rights these days, it’s easy to forget that there’s another side to the equation.”[1]Now more than ever we can see a societal change towards rights being asserted and responsibilities being pushed to the background. By always thinking of ourselves and the rights we have, or the laws that we can use to enforce our rights, we may sometimes forget that we have responsibilities and duties to other people.

We must take the step to ensure that our responsibilities to our children are being met before we assert our rights over them. When we speak about our rights we often forget that responsibilities follow. Responsibilities are what enforce these rights.

What are Parental Rights and Responsibilities?

Parental responsibilities are the things you must do in order to ensure the health and wellbeing of your child is being met, this can be making sure they have nutritious diet, that they attend medical and dental appointments, that they regularly attend school and have social opportunities to make friends.

Parental rights and the things you are legally entitled to do as the parent of a child. For example, you have the right to decide where your child lives.

Parental rights and responsibilities are a legal requirement to ensure that parents are adequately looking after and protecting their children. It may be surprising to know that, generally, both parents have a responsibility to financially support their children. This is irregardless of that parent having rights and responsibilities. This responsibility continues until the child is 18, or 25 years old if they are in education.

Who has Parental Rights and Responsibilities?

Parental rights and responsibilities are automatically awarded to the mother following the birth of a child. The father will automatically have parental rights and responsibilities if he is married to the mother at the time of birth, if this is not the case, the father may get these rights by being named on the birth certificate, applying to the court etc.

Only in certain circumstances will parental rights and responsibilities not be awarded to the mother after birth.

Having parental rights and responsibilities will mean that you have a legal obligation to look after that child or children. You must ensure that the child is healthy, or seeking help for illnesses, make sure that the child is getting an education, provide the child with direction and guidance, making the best decisions for the child, make sure that you are in direct contact with the child if you do not live together and also act as a legal representative for the child.

The Fight for Rights

There has been a strong motion in family courts across the country with parents “fighting” for their parental rights.

Parental rights include:

● Having the child living with you or deciding where the child should live.

● Directing and guiding the child’s upbringing - this should be informed by what is best for the child.

● Having contact with the child if the child doesn’t live with them - this is only if the circumstances allow.

● Act as the child’s legal representative.

It may not be surprising to know that parents very rarely go to court to have their parental responsibilities back, or to receive more responsibilities. However, it must be noted that “parental rights are derived from parental duty and only exist so long as they are needed for the protection of the person and property of the child.”[2] What this means is that without parental responsibility, parental rights do not exist. Parental rights and responsibilities both exist, simultaneously, to ensure that the welfare and protection of the child is being promoted.

The Importance of Responsibilities

The Children (Scotland) Act 1995, which governs parental rights and responsibilities, lays out the responsibilities of a parent before they assert their rights. This assumes that responsibility of a parent is more paramount than the rights they assert over their children. “[T]his stresses that children are not possessions to be controlled by parents, but instead children are persons to be cared for.”[3] Parents should not be fighting tooth and nail to ensure that their rights are asserted, instead, their responsibilities for their child should be at the forefront of their mind.

As previously mentioned, in the majority of cases our responsibilities come before what our rights are. So why when it comes to children and family court do we completely forget this? In family court it is easy to forget that you have a responsibility for that child and automatically push to assert your rights over them. This is especially true when it comes to a domestic abuse relationship and you have one party trying to protect the child and the other party trying to use the child as a pawn or to further abuse the victim.

Conclusion

Now more than ever, we need to ensure that we know and understand the importance of our responsibilities. If you are going through family court, or are intending to go to family court in the future, then please remember your child is not a possession and you have the responsibility to care for them in the best way possible. The welfare of your child is paramount to anything and everything else.

As a general rule, a parent may lose their parental rights and thus meaning that they have no right to decide on the upbringing of their child etc. However, parental responsibility can only be removed in very limited circumstances. One of the only ways to lose responsibility for your child is if they reach the age of 18. It is easier for a parent to lose their rights over a child, than it is for them to lose their responsibility.


To join one of our Freedom Programmes, please contact us at info@riseagainstabuse.com. You will have access to the online freedom programme, our private groups and to our legal department where you can find out more about parental rights and responsibilities.


All views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily express the views of the company. This article is only to be used for informational purposes only, if you need advice, please contact us.


 

References: [1] David F. Lloyd, ‘Rights vs Responsibilities’, (Society and Culture) 2001, Vision <https://www.vision.org/rights-vs-responsibilities-667> [2] Gillick v W Norfolk and Wisbech AHA [1986] AC 112 at p. 184, Per Lord Scarman. [3] Jonathan Herring, ‘Family Law’, (Pearson, Longman Law Series, 9th edn.)



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