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Usually the mother has the 'parental responsibility' for their children, but it is not uncommon for a father to have 'parental rights' too. Today, one in three children is now born outside of marriage. Some parents may be unclear about who has legal parental responsibility for their children.

What are parental rights and responsibility?

If a married couple have jointly adopted a child, then they both have parental responsibility. This is not usually the case for unmarried parents.

With the rights and responsibility to make important decisions about your child's life in areas like education and even medical treatment, it is very important to make the correct decision when it comes to parental rights.

Current law says a mother always has parental rights and responsibility for her child or children. The father has this responsibility only if he is married to the mother. Living with the mother does not automatically give a father parental responsibility or rights, even if it is for a long time. Parental rights do not always pass to the natural father if the mother dies and the parents were not married.

The courts take the time to make these decisions according to a child's best interest. Parental rights and responsibility does not always mean paying child support or anything of that nature. All birth or adoptive parents have a financial and legal duty of support for their child or children.

What can single fathers and mothers do?

Single fathers and mothers can gain parental rights for their children in several different ways.  Most of the time they hire a private investigator.  The investigator can do surveillance or background checks on the other parent to see if they are in anyway unfit of taking care of the child.

In order for the court to grant parental responsibility, they look into many personal aspects of the father and mother.  In most cases the court will take the following into account:

  • The degree of attachment between parent and child
  • The commitment shown by the parent to his child
  • Any evidence showing the parent is unfit

After all the documents are in and the case has been presented, the court will then decide to accept or reject the parents application based on what it believes is in the best interest for the child.

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