Rights & Duties of Parents
When divorcing parents have minor children, certain rights and duties of the parents regarding those children must be enumerated in the parties’ divorce decree. If two parties are not married, a court order may be put in effect regarding their children with the same rights and duties allocated to parents in a divorce decree.
The rights and duties are allocated as follows in a court order regarding children: solely to mother, solely to father, independent to each parent, or by agreement of the parents. “By agreement” is usually the best option, but many times parents have fundamental differences of opinion on certain issues such as medication use and education choice. If the parents fundamentally disagree on certain matters, then sometimes it is better for one parent to have the sole right to make decisions for that particular right.
If the right is “solely to one parent”, then only that parent has the right to decide for that issue, such as consenting for the child to undergo surgery. If the right is “independent,” then either parent has the right to make decisions for that particular issue. “Independent” does not always work well with matters such as consenting to surgery or school enrollment, since each parent could act alone countering the other parent’s decision. “By agreement” requires both parents to agree before consenting to matters regarding the child, such as surgery or educational decisions. Many times, parents will agree to include tie-breaker language in their divorce decree which gives a third-party the right to decide the matter if the parents disagree. For example, parents might agree that the child’s treating pediatrician act as a tie-breaker if there is a disagreement regarding a surgery to be performed on the child.
The chart below is a summary of the rights and duties allocated to parents in a divorce decree or a court order regarding their minor children.