Mothers' Rights

Do Mothers Have Rights in the Family Courts?

Mothers do have legal rights in the family courts but they also have responsibilities as a parent such as providing a home for their children, to protect and maintain them, as well as disciplining the child, ensuring they are educated, agreeing to necessary medical treatment, naming the child and looking after a child’s property.

If you are mother who is not the primary carer of the child or you don’t live with the children, you do not automatically have a right to contact but in the vast majority of cases mothers will have contact in these relatively limited cases presently.

The reality is that now mothers can be the primary caregiver and/or the primary breadwinner, as well as joint caregivers and joint breadwinners, the roles of many mothers have changed while many others prefer a more traditional role in their parenting.

Mothers Parental Responsibility

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 although more and more who work within the system are recognising that workplace and parenting roles have changed. 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.

Same-Sex Parents

If you are Civil partners then both same-sex partners will have parental responsibility if civil partners at the time of having treatment to have children.

If not Civil partners at the time of treatment for having children, then the non-birth parent can acquire parental responsibility by agreement or jointly registering the birth.

Mothers Financial Responsibility

Mothers have the responsibility to ensure the child/ren are supported financially. Whether they live with the child or not, they are expected to support their children financially.

Mothers as Contact Parents

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 (spending time with parent). The problems these mothers face in maintaining and strengthening their relationships with their children are as substantial as many fathers, due to the often substantial focus on the primary carer parent by the family court system. Often these mothers can find it very difficult with prevailing attitudes sometimes not particularly sympathetic to the non-primary mother caregiver.

Mothers Rights in Law

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.

Child Support and Mothers

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. In many cases it is vital for the child’s needs, that mothers are able to access benefits and obtain child support from the other parent. However, there are some 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 and Mothers

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.

Family courts are increasingly putting pressure when they feel it is necessary on mothers to provide for significant contact or living with arrangements by promoting and facilitating children spending time with the other parent. From some mothers perspective it can be at the expense of a satisfactory regard to the welfare of their children as the courts do not in their view take seriously the concerns of some mothers. It is important for mothers to ensure their case is put forward in a way that ensures their concerns and worries are acknowledged and addressed where there are real safeguarding issues for the welfare of the children.

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