Ensuring that parents have equal rights vis-à-vis their children

Council of Europe member states should remove from their laws any difference based on marital status between parents who have acknowledged their child and ensure that parents have equal rights vis-à-vis their children under their laws and administrative practice, the PACE Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination has said.

In adopting a draft resolution unanimously on equality and shared parental responsibility prepared by Françoise Hetto-Gaasch (Luxembourg, EPP/CD), the members said that the role of fathers vis-à-vis their children, including very young children, needs to be better recognised and properly valued.

Fathers are sometimes faced with laws, practices and prejudices which can “cause them to be deprived of sustained relationships with their children,” says the text, adding that such “separation should only be ordered by a court and only in exceptional circumstances entailing grave risks to the interest of the child.”

The text calls on the authorities of the member states to uphold the right of fathers to enjoy shared responsibility by ensuring that family law provides, in the event of separation or divorce, for “the possibility of joint custody of children”, in their best interests.

States should introduce into their laws the principle of shared residence following a separation, but in no instance in cases of sexual or gender-based violence, with the amount of time for which the child lives with each parent being adjusted according to the child’s needs and interests.

The members concluded that shared parental responsibility helps “to transcend gender stereotypes about the roles of women and men within the family.”

The draft resolution will be debated by the Assembly at its forthcoming autumn plenary session (Strasbourg, 28 September – 2 October).