When is a family not a family?
November 2, 2012 1:44 PM   Subscribe

Are the mother and father of a child in a family relationship with one another if they are not married and not partners in any way except as co-parents?

The mother and father are both the biological parents of the child and its legally registered parents on its birth certficate. They had a sexual liaison that resulted in the mother's pregnancy and the birth of the child. They have no interest in getting married or otherwise instituting a relationship as a couple. The sole basis of their relationship with one another is as co-parents of their child, and they are collaborating to bring the child up. Can it be argued that the mother and father are in a family relationship to each other? If so, on what grounds?

YANML and TINLA but I am interested in the legal ramifications of this question particularly with regard to the European Human Rights Act and the right to family life enshrined in it and further specifically in regard to UK immigration law. However, I would also be very interested in knowing whether this question has arisen and been dealt with in jurisdictions other than the UK and EU and what the arguments and rulings were.

I would also be interested in broader philosophical input into this question. On what grounds in 2012 might it be argued that the mother and father are in a family relationship?
posted by londongeezer to Law & Government (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Are they co-habitating?
posted by Dansaman at 1:45 PM on November 2, 2012


Not co-habiting on a full-time basis. They live in different countries. For a variety of reasons. The father commutes to visit the mother and child and during his visits they all live in the mother and child's home.
posted by londongeezer at 1:49 PM on November 2, 2012


Is the father married to someone else?
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:16 PM on November 2, 2012


My dad was raised by his mother and his material grandparents. While they kept separate homes, they were all deeply involved in his upbringing, so I would consider that to be a familial relationship. My dad's father and paternal grandparents were around, but they played no part in his upbringing and had very little contact. I would consider this second relationship to be non-familial. Familial relationship does not equal romantic involvement, or vice versa. Parental or parental-parallel responsibility does define a familial relationship.
posted by mochapickle at 2:17 PM on November 2, 2012


I say yes. They are family. They are both members of the child's family. Even if they do not feel like they have familial relations with each other, they are both part of the same family.
posted by fancyoats at 2:22 PM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Iris Gambol: no, the father is not married to anyone else.
posted by londongeezer at 2:25 PM on November 2, 2012


This kind of thing is exactly what immigration lawyers are for, I doubt there are more than a few dozen people on Earth capable of authoritatively answering your question, and they are unlikely to be mefites.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:37 PM on November 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Anecdata for the philosophical part of your question, totally not legal or lawyerly or anything close: I do not consider my ex-husband, with whom I coparent my children, to be part of my family. I do consider him to be part of my children's family, as he is their father. I consider my current husband to be part of my children's family, although he is not blood-related.

I don't think that coparenting implies that you have a family unit between the coparents themselves. They each have a responsibility to their children, but do not have responsibility to each other. To me, 'family' implies a responsibility to and for family members. The coparents do not necessarily have responsibilities to each other.

For example, if the mother in this case lost her job and the father started supplying support *to the mother* (as opposed to just supporting the child), then that's a decent argument for it being a family.
posted by agentmitten at 2:48 PM on November 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


You seriously need a lawyer, because this is a highly specialized, technical question about immigration law. It's hugely complicated and may depend on a number of details specific to your case, details that only a specialized lawyer would know to ask about.

That said, for general information about immigrating to the UK as the parent of a child who is a UK citizen, the UK Border Agency provides an overview of the requirements. If that's not your question (or even if it is), you really do need to seek the advice of a lawyer about your specific case.
posted by decathecting at 2:49 PM on November 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


YANML and TINLA but I am interested in the legal ramifications of this question particularly with regard to the European Human Rights Act and the right to family life enshrined in it and further specifically in regard to UK immigration law.

I am not any kind of lawyer, but I imagine that while the family status of co-parents in relationship to each other is debatable, the father has a very definite familial relationship with his child and the right to see/visit/live near the child might potentially be protected under the right to family life.
posted by *becca* at 4:01 PM on November 2, 2012


Is this involving trying to get one party immigrating into the country of the other one without being married to a citizen? I'm just confused as to what you are going for with this question.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:26 PM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Philosophically, I agree with agentmitten. If one parent becomes unemployed, disabled, or horribly sick, is the other parent willing to do their best to support the parent who cannot take care of themself? If not, then IMO, philosophically, the two parents are not in a family relationship. If so, then they are.

This philosophy also takes care of mochapickle's example, since I imagine that the grandparents and parents would be willing to take care of each other to the best of their ability if something happened, even though they live in different places.

I consider my mother, sister, and grandmother family for that reason, even though I do not live with them; it's the amount of responsibility I'm willing to shoulder (i.e., all) rather than if we live together or parent children together or any of the other stuff.
posted by ethidda at 6:15 PM on November 2, 2012


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