Rights and duties of parents

Rights and duties of a parent

It is usually a personal choice to have a child. However, upon giving birth to the child, certain rights accrue and the law imposes several duties on the parent. What are they?

Who is a Parent?
A parent is a person who has legal custody of a child.

According to the law, the biological parent is not necessarily the parent of the child. It is also trite law that a child cannot have more than two legal parents at a time. For example, an adopted child’s parents are those who have his or her legal custody. A biological parent’s legal rights are  severed upon adoption of their child.

The other case where a parent’s legal rights to a child are extinguished is like when the court terminates that parent’s rights due to extreme neglect of the child or extreme violence towards the child. In such cases, the court usually appoints a legal guardian for the child in issue.

But whether a parent is biological or not, their rights and duties are the same under the law.

Rights of a parent
Every parent has the right to physical custody of the child. When that right is limited by a court of law, the parent affected has the right to access the child on reasonable visits.

Every parent has the right to legal custody of their child. They have the right to make major decisions regarding the child’s upbringing.

Parents also have the right to pass on property to their children
Also, parents have the right to a child’s earnings and to inherit from their child in the event of death.

These rights may be shared between parents even when they are divorced or separated.

Duties of a parent
Parents have the duty to meet their children’s basic needs for food, clothing, housing, medical care, and education.

It is also the parent’s duty to make decisions regarding the child, only in the child’s best interest.

Parents have the duty to support their children financially, at least until they attain majority age. However, this duty may be extended past the age of 18 if the child has special needs.

Parents also have the duty to protect their children from harm

Can a court change a parent’s rights and responsibilities?
Yes, a court of law may vary the rights and duties of a parent.
For example, upon divorce, the court can make specific orders about custody, visitation and maintenance of the child. However, even if one parent is obligated by court to provide child support, the other parents right to support the child is not extinguished.

Then also, courts can limit parental rights, for example, where court orders supervised visits by a neutral third party.

However, courts rarely terminate the rights of parents in whole except in extreme circumstances of neglect and violence. In cases where parental rights are fully extinguished, it follows that even all parental responsibilities are thereby extinguished.

If you have any concerns regarding your parenting situation, please get in touch with us for advice.


This article appears in our digital law newsletter, The Deuteronomy Vol 8, Issue 3 of August 18th, 2017
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