In Trinidad and Tobago there's not as much discussion about the parental rights of fathers and many men may be unaware of the parental rights they possess.
But first - what exactly are parental rights?
Parental rights include:
For a father to exercise his parental rights in regards to a child, he must first legally establish his paternity (the fact that he is the father of the child). The way in which paternity is most commonly established is at the time of registration of a child’s birth, when a man is recorded as “Father” on a child’s birth certificate.
At the time of registration of a child’s birth, a man is automatically recorded as the father on a child’s birth certificate if he is married to the child’s mother at the time of the child’s birth.
If the man is not married to the child’s mother at the time of the child’s birth, his name would not be recorded as father on the birth certificate unless:
Another way to legally establish paternity is for a person to make an application to the court for a declaration that he is the father of a child (under section 10 of the Status of Children Act). This application must be supported by evidence such as a DNA test.
Once the paternity to a child is established, a father has the following rights:
Right to custody
The Family Law (Guardianship of Minors, Domicile and Maintenance) Act allows both the father and mother of a child to have equal rights in relation to the custody and upbringing of a child (section 4 of the Act). Any parent can make an application for custody – whether they’re seeking divorce, are unmarried parents, or a single parent.
Custody means the right to possession and care of a child. There are two types of custody:
If a father legally establishes his paternity to a child, he has just as much a right as the mother to apply for custody or for access to the child.
Right to pass property to a child
Parents often want to ensure that their property is passed on to their children if something happens to them. What if a father passes away before he has a chance to make a will?
If a father passes away without leaving a will and he was recorded as “Father” on his child’s birth certificate, his child will automatically have a right to a share of his estate (that is, to his money, property and possessions). However, if he was not recorded as "Father" on his child's birth certificate, his child or a person acting on his/her behalf, would first have to make an application to the court for a declaration that the deceased person was the father of the child. This application has to be supported by evidence. The application can also be contested against by others who have an interest in the deceased person's estate. Only when this application is successful, would the child have a right to a share of the father's estate.
Right to inherit from a child
If a child passes away without leaving a will and a person was recorded as "Father" on the child's birth certificate, and that person is still alive, and the child leaves no spouse, no cohabitant or no children of his/her own, the person named as "Father" will have a right to a share of the child's estate.
(Section 26 of the Administration of Estates Act).
A right to be a Dad
Overall, fathers in T&T have extensive parental rights once their paternity to a child is established. If a father feels as though he is not getting a chance to be sufficiently involved in his child's life he can approach the court for a remedy.
Important Notice: This post does not constitute or provide legal advice. Always consult with a suitably qualified attorney-at-law on any legal problem or issue.
Law For All is managed by the Aurora Chambers Legal Practice.
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