The Rights and Duties of Parents

The coexistence between parents and children has been regulated by different legal precepts. What are the rights and duties of parents?
The Rights and Duties of Parents

Last update: 13 January, 2022

When talking about the relationship between parents and children from the legal point of view, many concepts appear. Parental authority, inheritance, or custody are some of them. But do we know really understand the meaning of these concepts? Are we truly aware of the rights and duties of parents with regard to our children?

It may seem obvious that parents must feed, care for, train, and educate their children. But it’s not always so and, above all, not all parents fulfill them. Failure to comply with these basic obligations is often the cause of legal disputes between separated parents, for example.

But parents also have rights, and these are sometimes forgotten. Next, we’ll see some elements to better understand the rights and duties of parents.

Parental rights

Parents have an enormous responsibility and in many cases, and that weight often produces anguish and stress. Above all, if there’s no reciprocity between duties and rights, a give and take that complements and strengthens.

The fact of the matter is that parents have the right to be fallible, to make mistakes, as well as to recognize their mistakes and to amend them. They have the right to ask for forgiveness and start over. They deserve to enjoy their children and achieve fulfillment within the home. And they have the right to live with intensity in the present and take vacations, that is, take time for themselves, for their personal growth and enjoyment.

In the same sense, they can choose to meet their goals, consider projects, and grow based on their ideals, tastes, beliefs, and desires. They have the duty to respect, but at the same time, to be respected. This implies that they have the right to be the authority and to impose the rules.

But just as they have rights, sometimes made invisible, they also have duties. Among them, that of parental authority and custody. Let’s see what each one is about.

The difference between parental authority and custody

Parental authority is the set of rights and obligations that the law grants to parents over the people and property of their underage children who aren’t emancipated. It’s important to emphasize that parental authority includes both the duties and the rights of the parents.

Parents giving their daughter a kiss on the head as they lie on a picnic blanket in the woods.

In principle, parental authority is exercised by the two parents, by mutual agreement. This is the case whether both parents live together or whether they’re separated or divorced. However, it can be exercised exclusively by one of them, always with the consent of the other.

The law establishes that parental authority must always be exercised for the benefit of the children. In very serious cases, the courts may decide to withdraw parental authority from one or both of the parents. But this is something very exceptional.

Guardianship and custody are two very different things. It’s a part of parental authority, one of its functions, which is to define with whom the minor will live in the event of parental separation.

Guardianship determines who will guard that minor and who will be responsible for their daily care. But a parent who doesn’t have custody and guardianship continues to have parental authority over their child.

The specific duties of parents

Among the main duties of parents is the obligation to be with their children, to care for them, protect them, feed them, educate them, and promote their integral development. This also includes providing them with medical assistance, clothing, and watching over them in all situations. Parents must also legally represent their children and manage their assets.

These non-negotiable obligations are born the moment we become parents. Currently, under the law, these duties are the same for both parents.

When do parental duties end?

Parental authority, with all the rights and duties that it implies for the parents, legally ends when the child reaches the age that they’re no longer a minor. It can also be terminated earlier in the event of the emancipation of the minor.

However, in practice, the obligation of parents to provide maintenance, care, and protection to their children ends when they achieve their economic independence. And this obligation is also protected by law.

In practice, a child of legal age who still lives with their parents and isn’t financially independent can sue in court if their parents no longer want to support them.

A little boy watching his dad cut vegetables.

Parental rights are often forgotten

Nowadays, there’s a lot of talk about the rights of children, but we often overlook the fact that parents also have rights over them, always with the best interest of the child in mind. This theme becomes especially evident in the teenage years.

During this period, most adolescents tend to distance themselves from their parents and seek refuge in groups of friends. And this can raise concern. Parents may suspect that their children have problems.

Being responsible for the care and protection of minors, parents have the right to use strategies to find out about their private life in order to know what’s happening and to be able to intervene. This is legally justified.

Always keeping in mind the best interests of the minor, parents also have the right to choose the type of education their children receive. This includes setting rules and imposing punishments, as long as these actions don’t involve physical or verbal violence.

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