Single mothers have rights too
A single mother amidst all her plight and hardships, emotional or otherwise, should always be very well-aware of the rights that she is entitled to. It goes without saying that raising a child alone takes a lot of courage and effort, and the mother has to play the dual roles of a mother as well as a father. Amidst such a scenario, she must be armed with the rights that she deserves. Be it through divorce, widowhood, or estrangement from the father of the child, singledom for a ‘mother’ is much more of an emotional upheaval than that for a ‘ single woman’. For a single mother, the issues that can arise are those of custody, child support or visitation.
Many decades ago, the law showed a clear preference towards mothers when it came to the parental right of custody, based on the presupposition that the mother-child relationship is more crucial in the latter’s developmental stage that his/her relationship with the father. Though the myth still prevails that law is partial towards the mother when it comes to parental rights, the fact is that it has become gender-neutral in the areas of child custody. Other than cases where the father has expired, or has severed all ties with the child, both the parents have to work out an agreement about the child’s custody. If they fail to arrive at a reconciliatory position, the court takes the decision by taking into account several factors such as parental preference, the child’s preference, parent-child relationships, financial ability, mental/physical health issues of either parent, etc. When it comes to economic issues, the single mother often finds herself in a disadvantageous position. However, if she has been the primary caregiver to the child, this might be of advantage to her in disputes related to custody.
Next comes the question of visitation. If a single mother does not have the right to custody, she can certainly seek her right to visit her child. If a single mother feels that her child should not visit her father due to abuse, she can present a petition to the court, saying that paternal visitation should be denied as long as she can provide evidence of abuse. A single mother also has the right to ask for financial contribution from the father in aiding the upbringing of the child, and she is liable for the same even if the father decides not to see the child on a regular basis. Only when a parent poses any kind of threat to the child can the court order a termination of parental rights. The grounds may be abuse or neglect, abandonment, substance abuse, mental/physical illness etc.
You need not feel deprived, agonised or helpless if you’re a single mother. Know your rights and claim them rightfully, for your own welfare as well as that of your child.