If you are going through a divorce but you are struggling with the court system, communication between you and your partner is fraught, and you are worried about your children, you may be concerned about your rights as a mother. Many people assume that mothers are naturally given preferential treatment in the family courts, but thinking is changing as the twenty first century is seeing families of all different shapes and sizes. From single parent families to same sex couples, children must remain at the heart of family court decisions.
The ‘mother is best’ view is still taken as the starting point when family courts consider custodial arrangements. As a biological mother, you will have automatic legal and parental rights. While mothers used to be the traditional primary caregiver, society has seen a shift in the parent who chooses to go to work. Fathers can now stay at home more often and mothers are often the breadwinners. However, whether primary caregiver or not, mothers always have the legal right to be consulted on medical and education decisions.
When fathers no longer live in the home or have separated from the mother of their children, they cannot simply forego their legal parental responsibility. Mothers have every right to try and ensure that the fathers of their children are financially responsible, just as they are. This is not gender bias. It doesn’t matter whether the main breadwinner is the father or the mother, each parent must pay their way to support their children. In the twenty first century, if it is the mother who chooses to leave the home, they can seek visitation and must ensure that their child is supported financially.
If you are not the primary caregiver or your child lives with their father, this doesn’t mean that you don’t have equal parental rights – in a court of law, you do.
However difficult a relationship is, when it breaks down, the children must be at the centre of every decision that you make. As a mother, you will be deemed the natural choice when looking at living arrangements if you are the primary caregiver. If you are not, things get a little more complicated. A court must look into what is best for the child. However, with parental responsibility being equal between a mother and a married father, the family court will seek to ensure the child has contact with both parents. This can be changed if one parent has been abusive or put their children in danger.
Same Sex Parents
If a child is born to a woman in a same sex relationship, this woman automatically has legal and parental responsibility. However, unless married or in a civil partnership, her partner needs to formally acquire parental responsibility and jointly register the birth.
Family law is a complicated sphere. However, with the guidance of a family law solicitor, you can ensure that your rights as a mother are protected and that you can raise your child in a responsible and fair way.