Over the past few years, many will recall news reports of superheroes climbing public buildings campaigning for father’s rights. This has sparked much debate and publicity for various reasons and at the time it left many fathers wondering – do I have rights in relation to my child and, if so, what are they?
With Father’s Day just around the corner – this year it falls on Sunday 19th June 2016 – many fathers are asking themselves the same questions, and in particular whether they have a right to see their child on Father’s Day. After all, the name of the day would suggest that it is a day for fathers to spend with their child.
In Scotland, a father automatically has parental responsibilities and rights (PRRs) if he is married to the mother at the time of the child’s conception or subsequently; or if the child is born on or after 4th May 2006 and the father is named on the child’s birth certificate. If a father does not fall into either of these categories then it is possible for him to acquire PRRs by either entering into a PRRs agreement with the mother, or by virtue of a court making an order conferring PRRs on the father.
The various PRRs are detailed in legislation. Parental rights exist to enable a person to fulfil their parental responsibilities. If both parents have PRRs, all too often, solicitors have to remind parents that their respective PRRs are equal – neither parent has more rights in relation to the child than the other.
PRRs entitle parents to have their child live with them and to spend time with them. The legislation does not specify a certain period of time that a parent is to spend with their child as each case is different and one rule does not fit all. In relation to any matter regarding a child, the paramount consideration is what is in the child’s best interests. Many separated parents manage to agree the care arrangements for their child, which often includes the child spending certain holidays and special days with one parent or the other. This may include a child spending Father’s Day with their father.
In situations where separated parents cannot agree the care arrangements for a child, the parents may decide to attend mediation in the hope of reaching a mutually acceptable outcome. If mediation is not fruitful or not appropriate, then some parents may end up going down the court route. Having said that, the court route should always be a last resort for a number of reasons. As there are no certainties in litigation, no-one can ever be guaranteed a particular outcome.
So, in answer to the question posed in the title to this blog, if both parents have PRRs then, in the absence of a court order, each parent has as much right as the other to see their child on any day of the year, including Father’s Day.