Parental Responsibilities: Reformulating the Paradigm for Parent–Child Relationships

This two-part article, published in the Journal of Child Custody, September 2017, calls for the removal of terms such as rights and custody, including joint and shared custody, and visitation from the legal discourse in relation to children and their parents, and replacing them with a doctrine based on the responsibilities of parents to their children. This will lead to the avoidance of much litigation. The article also points out that parental responsibilities can attach to persons other than biological parents, and details the scope of parental responsibilities.

Part 1: What is wrong with the ways in which we deal with the children of separated parents and how to put them right.

This first article demonstrates how the current discourse, based on the competing rights of the parents, leads inevitably to competitiveness and litigation, which are highly damaging to the child. The proposed paradigm of parental responsibilities requires establishing the needs of the specific child when there are parental disharmony and separation, while emphasizing the joint responsibilities of both parents to ensure that those needs are adequately met. It also addresses the question: who has parental responsibilities, when a child is born as a result of Assisted Reproductive Technology, and also the quasi-parental role of the court.

Link: or download the PDF file.

Part 2: Who has responsibilities to children and what are these responsibilities?

The second article describes the scope of parental responsibilities; who, alongside or instead of the biological parents, may have parental responsibilities vis-à-vis the child; the roles of grandparents and members of the extended family, and partners of parents, are described. The principal categories of parenting tasks are described in detail. I also show how the concept of parental responsibilities is essential for properly dealing with children in need of protection, and how the paradigm applies to courts that deal with proceedings involving children.