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Do mothers have more rights over their children than fathers?

In June we mark Fathers’ Day, which brings to mind the often-raised question as to whether family law favours one parent over the other.  Quite commonly the fathers I see as a family law solicitor and mediator assume that the law has an inbuilt bias towards mothers.

In fact, historically the opposite was true.  Until much of the last century children were regarded as the property of their fathers, like their wives, such that mothers had no, or hardly any, rights at all.

Everything changed with the trail-blazing Children Act of 1989.  This removed the concept of parental rights.  Now, the focus is on parental responsibility i.e. the rights and responsibilities parents have towards their child to act in their child’s best interests. There is no bias towards mothers or fathers in the statute as the emphasis has switched to focussing on the welfare of the child being the paramount consideration, no longer parental rights.

Now the law enshrines the welfare of the child as the paramount factor, this is reflected in the general approach that a child should be able to have an ongoing relationship with both parents.  This is why shared care arrangements are commonly seen, with the exact breakdown of time varying from family to family, as everyone’s circumstances are different. Of course, if there are any safeguarding concerns the law will do all it can to protect a child and may need to provide for no contact for one or both parents where the child’s safety and welfare is at risk.

It is always best to try to sort out the arrangements for your children in as amicable and constructive a fashion as possible, as minimising or eliminating parental conflict is best for children.  Family mediation is one way to resolve things without the acrimony, stress and costs of contested court proceedings.  Another good option is the collaborative process.  These are all conversation-based ways of sorting things out.

If you would like more information or need help or advice about a family law matter, family mediation or the collaborative process please contact Sarah French on 01962 841484 or