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Unfeminist re parental responsibility?

(51 Posts)
ThroughThinkandThing Sun 26-Feb-17 14:09:13

Friend A has been ranting about parental responsibility, and fathers not automatically getting parental responsibility if they aren't married to the mother (on facebook, I tend to avoid these arguments as they don't end well).

Mutual friend B has said that she thought it was to do with protection for the child and mother, so that absent father can't cause trouble. That if the relationship is amicable (either as a couple, or co-parenting) the father can apply for parental responsibility, or just get on with parenting. That father whether absent or not, still has a duty to provide for said child. That given the rise in couples who don't get married, possibly this is something that needs to be revisited. That yes, there are mothers who are awful and will take advantage of this, but very few. And that given mothers tend to be the prime caregivers in the event of the a relationship breakdown, this is probably the best way for it to be handled.

I read all this and thought "yep, broadly agreeing with that, sounds good". Friend A has jumped on her completely, calling her unfeminist, that treating parents differently perpetuates inequality and that it gives men a "get out of jail free" card in parenting.

Now tempted to stick my toe in, though I know it's a bad idea because facebook, but feeling quite sorry for friend B. Before I did that, I wanted to throw it open here, because I've learnt a lot through reading the feminism/relationship boards, do consider myself a feminist, and wanted to know if there is a general view that I (and friend B) are completely wrong and regressive, or if friend A is wrong. I'd love to live in a utopia where all parents, whether together or not, parent properly for the best for the children, but we don't live in that world.

Please help me formulate my views, or educate me if I am completely wrong?!

almondpudding Sun 26-Feb-17 14:22:07

Fathers do have automatic parental responsibility if their name is on the birth certificate. They don't have to be married to the mother.

This has been the case for at least ten years, iirc.

ThroughThinkandThing Sun 26-Feb-17 14:26:02

Ah, well we were starting with a false premise from friend A then! Though if unmarried, don't fathers need mothers to have their name on the birth certificate?

almondpudding Sun 26-Feb-17 14:28:06

Mother, marriage certificate or presumably a court and paternity test.

How on earth else would you suggest we decide who the father is to put on the birth certificate?

ThroughThinkandThing Sun 26-Feb-17 14:29:47

Oh, I don't think we should have any other way of putting a man on a birth certificate.

meditrina Sun 26-Feb-17 14:36:14

If not married, the father can be named on the birth certificate only if he is present at the registration, or has made a declaration acknowledging paternity (can't remember what it's called, but it's used for Armed Forces on operations, prisoners and others with good reason why they cannot attend the registry office).

This is to prevent unmarried women naming a man who isn't the father (because in theory you could name anyone).

A husband can be listed as father if not present, because unless proved otherwise, a child is assumed to be child of the marriage.

An unmarried man who is not on the birth certificate can apply for PR through the courts. So it is not totally dependent on the woman. Though of course that requires the man to take the initiative in starting the application. But someone who wants to step up and be a good father isn't going to find that onerous.

almondpudding Sun 26-Feb-17 14:47:14

It's called a statutory declaration of parentage.

ThroughThinkandThing Sun 26-Feb-17 14:55:09

meditrina, thanks for your post, and I agree on it not being too onerous. I suppose my question is, is it regressive and unfeminist to think that the current system (with apologies for the error in my op) is the best way to handle the situation? And is friend A in fact doing a "what about the menz?" when she says it is unfair to men to not automatically get PR?

Though she thinks it is unfeminist too because as well as being unfair to men, it gives them a get out clause, and so perpetuates a situation where women are the primary caregivers with all the ensuing repercussions for employment/salary/pensions etc.

almondpudding Sun 26-Feb-17 14:57:21

How would we create a system where men automatically get PR?

meditrina Sun 26-Feb-17 14:57:29

What system does she envisage instead?

tribpot Sun 26-Feb-17 15:01:25

So this is 'what about the menz who are not on the birth certificate' rather than 'what about the menz'?

FinallyHere Sun 26-Feb-17 15:01:51

Yes, I'm also open to learning more and am left wondering how else it could work?

almondpudding Sun 26-Feb-17 15:03:25

The UK rules are here:

ThroughThinkandThing Sun 26-Feb-17 15:06:01

I'm not sure what she thinks - before I venture into a facebook bunfight (that I'm not sure I want), I wanted to get my thinking sorted.

I don't know how it would work practically, given how do we know who the father is - is it on mother's say so, father's say so, etc - all open to problems.

almondpudding Sun 26-Feb-17 15:09:04

'I don't know how it would work practically, given how do we know who the father is - is it on mother's say so, father's say so, etc - all open to problems.'

'How do we know who the father is' is basically the justification for patriarchy.

EdithWeston Sun 26-Feb-17 15:09:30

I think that unless your friend can come up with some ideas for a better system there isn't any point in trying to debate it.

The current one works, is straightforward, covers both married and unmarried fathers, and can be amended through the courts if further facts emerge.

What else is actually required?

SaorAlbaGuBrath Sun 26-Feb-17 15:10:59

Since 1st December 2003 if the father is on the birth certificate he has automatic rights and responsibilities. Personally I think the biggest problem in society is the dropping of the word "responsibilities" because all I ever hear about is rights. To me, if you don't fulfil your responsibilities you sure as hell shouldn't have any rights!

ThroughThinkandThing Sun 26-Feb-17 15:11:09

I know that it is the justification for patriarchy, I'm explaining myself really badly here. Sorry, I'm going to try and formulate what I'm trying to say and then come back.

almondpudding Sun 26-Feb-17 15:11:14

I'm not saying you are justifying patriarchy btw, just that patriarchy is a major issue globally in the treatment and documentation of children born out of wedlock and their mothers.

Because patriarchy is about controlling women reproductively.

ThroughThinkandThing Sun 26-Feb-17 15:12:16

Edith, that's what I think - that it is the best system we have, so why (and how) change it.

ThroughThinkandThing Sun 26-Feb-17 15:13:42

Sorry, Almond, I didn't mean to jump. Just having been accused indirectly (by agreeing with friend B) of being unfeminist, I'm a bit sensitive at the moment!

almondpudding Sun 26-Feb-17 15:15:23

Don't be sorry Op. I know what you are trying to get at.

It's basically around the argument over whether men as a group can or will ever take equal responsibility in parenting children, and how do we make that possible.

I don't believe it is possible, because in our society women almost always only carry a baby to term if they really want to be involved in a child's life, while many bio fathers are happy to get someone pregnant without any intention of acting as a parent.

almondpudding Sun 26-Feb-17 15:16:11

And sorry that we keep cross posting!

Dervel Sun 26-Feb-17 15:24:25

I can't speak to what is or isn't feminist, but as a seperated father I can confirm that it's a simple form to fill in sent to court and rubber stamped. Although I did not have to go down that route in the end my solicitor explained it's a simple matter, and barring a criminal record etc it's usually pretty quick and painless.

I cannot see the need to change anything. Unless we do some sort of compulsory paternity test on the birth of every child to establish 100% who a child's parents are, but the cost of that would soon rack up and I'd rather that money was spent elsewhere in the NHS if I'm honest.

What should prevail here is common sense. If a man wants to be named on the birth certificate and have parental responsibilities there is an inexpensive mechanism to do precisely that even in face of opposition from the mother.

If there is a broader point on more men embracing a parenting role I'd agree, but the arena for that is not ink on a birth certificate it is cultural.

Blistory Sun 26-Feb-17 15:30:42

Both A and B have erroneous starting points which makes agreeing or disagreeing with them wrong.

It has never been about protecting the woman and child but has historically been an area where society has traditionally favoured men by allowing them ownership of their offspring or the option of disclaiming them if they wanted to.

We might not have those laws anymore but we still have the attitude that women are responsible for children and that men can walk away, pretty much without sanction. Any man or woman who wants to bleat that it's unfair that men don't automatically get PR should focus their ire on the feckless men who walk away or deny their child a father because that's a choice men still get to make.

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