Parents often assert their rights to their children; the right to live with them, spend time with them and make decisions about their lives.
When parents separate and don’t agree on these things then each parent may feel their rights to their children are under threat. The reality however is that there is no statute outlining the rights of parents. Nor are there legal cases involving children decided on the basis of what the parents have a right to.
Currently the ‘paramount consideration’ in legal proceedings involving children is the welfare principle. It is detailed within S1 (1) of the Children Act 1989 and dictates that in each case the court must make its decisions based on what best promotes the child’s welfare. There is also a welfare checklist consisting of statutory criteria the courts must consider when reaching its decision in cases involving children, 5 relate directly to children, 1 to the capability of the parents (rather than any rights they may have) and 1 to the powers of the court. Thus demonstrating, in statue at least, parents have responsibilities but there is no mention of rights.
It can however be suggested that parents rights do exist and are simply hidden within terminology about what is best for the child. For example S11 of the Children and Families Act 2014 amends S1 of the Children Act 1989 adding a presumption that parental contact with each parent is good for the child’s welfare and should be encouraged. Hence parents legally can enforce a right to see their children but this is because the Courts deem it is what is best for the child.