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Non-resident parent rights and responsibilities

This blog is a bit of a rant but possesses some interesting questions which I feel need answers.

The government is happy to chase a non-resident parent for money to ensure they meet their responsibilities to provide for their children. Rightly so. But if a parent wants to ensure their right to have contact with their child, they need to go to court and pay to have this right to upheld.

Rights have to go in hand with responsibility. The American right to bear arms comes with the responsibility to do so in a responsible manner. The right to defend yourself also includes the responsibility to only use reasonable force.

Why have we got a system,  that in family cases, enforces responsibilities without protecting the rights attached to them.  Let me give an example close to my heart – education:

If we take education, article 44 of the Education and Libraries (NI) Order 1986 (the 1986 Order) sets out the general principle that “so far as is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure, pupils shall be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents”.

Article 45 of the 1986 Order,  places a duty on the parent of a child of compulsory school age to make sure that he/she receives efficient full time education suitable to his/her age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs that he/she may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise. (Source

So both parents have a responsibility to ensure there child attends school – however the Dept of Education’s own website says that any person who has parental responsibility may act alone. Where there is disagreement between those with parental responsibility on any course of action affecting the child, any of the parties involved may apply to the Court for a decision. Which means a non-resident parent has the responsibility to ensure their child is educated but a resident parent can act on their own, choosing a school with no consultation.  If you don’t like it as a non-resident, you have to go to court at your own expenses to get you right to be heard and enforced.

In my circumstances, I have an ex-partner who uses the system to her advantage.  I have a responsibility to pay maintenance, which I do. The maintenance is calculated based on the number of nights I have my children. I had a court order where I had an average of  two nights a week, but I am now in a situation where my ex-partner is restricting when I can see my children which means the only nights she will allow are nights I am working… so she get more maintenance by ensuring I see my children less. So my right and my children’s rights for regular sustained contact are controlled by the whims of my partner. To enforce my rights I need to spend money I don’t have to go to court, when she doesn’t comply I have to spend more money to get the order enforced. So I meet my responsibilities but no-one is protecting my rights.

I watch Jeremy Kyle and see parents looking for their rights, but not standing up to responsibilities. I see people looking for absent parents to stand up to responsibilities but then denying them rights as a parent.

Whist the legal system is supposed to put the best interest of the child at the heart of family law, we have to ensure that the balance in law of ensuring rights and responsibilities are protected and met. At present, my experience is that a non-resident parent chases to ensure they meet their financial responsibilities, but I also have to find money I don’t have to go to court to ensure that my basic rights are upheld. How can that be just? How can that be in the best interest of the child?

I don’t have answers but I do recognize injustice and inequality. The question is how do we balance it fairly?

Till next week,




The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the blogger and do not necessarily represent the views of

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