Mothers’ rights are dealt with under parental responsibility. All biological mothers automatically have rather basic legal rights and responsibilities known as parental responsibility. There is no legal presumption in favour of mother’s, however the ‘mother is best’ view is still in practice prevalent in the family law system and in society. Whether the mother is the primary or equal carer or minority carer of the child/ren, parental responsibility means she has the right for example to be consulted in medical and education decisions. If the primary carer then this right in decision making also relates to all day to day matters whilst the children are in her care.
Mothers have the responsibility to ensure the child/ren are supported financially.
Increasing numbers of mothers (although still relatively small) who are not the primary carer face the same issues as many fathers in being classified as the non-resident parents, absent parent or the contact parent. The problems these mothers face in maintaining and strengthening their relationships with their children are as substantial as many fathers, due to the present focus often on the primary carer parent by the family court system.
The English and Welsh courts are cautious regarding terminology such as mothers rights, so Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Human Rights Act 1988 that provides for the ‘Right to Respect for private and family life is very often of little practical help at court for mothers who are trying to maintain or re-establish a relationship with their children who may primarily live with their fathers.
Mothers’ rights groups often are concerned with obtaining child support for children, benefits from government and keeping the system from ordering what they may perceive as too generous or any contact between their child/ren and the other parent. However, there are mothers groups who aim to influence legislators and society at large to understand that both parents are equally important to their children and policies should reflect this.
The family court system’s often adversarial and acrimonious process despite the best efforts of many judges, although generally supportive of mothers, still is a system that impacts on mothers many times negatively, as it often has a tendency to harden attitudes on both sides despite the abundance of research that shows parental conflict is emotionally unhelpful to actually harmful for children to witness.