Please join us for a talk by Dr. Liam Shields on the distribution of parental rights and third party interests.
Abstract: If we set aside non-instrumental concerns with biological connection, there are two main positions in the literature on the distribution of parental rights. There are those who believe that the child’s interest are all that matters. These so-called child-centered theories maintain that due to the child’s vulnerability we should not take into account the interests others might have in who holds rights over them. The best known example of such a view is known as the best custodian condition and it states that parental rights should be held by those individuals who are willing to parent and who will do no worse a job than anyone else in terms of the child’s expected well-being. There are also those who believe that interests of parents matter in addition to the child interests of the child. These so-called dual-interest views, maintain that both the interest of the child, in the quality of their upbringing and life as a whole, and that interest of parents in establishing and maintaining a valuable relationship with their child should be considered when determining, among other things, child custody. In this paper I wish to motivate and sketch an even more inclusive position than this. My position takes into account the interest of so-called third parties, including prospective parents, relatives and disinterested third parties who I argue have an interest that should be accounted for in a complete and sound account of the distribution of parental rights. I start summarizing the extant positions in detail and then go on to argue by analogy for inclusion of the interests of prospective parents and relatives. I then finally suggest that others, such as those who have no desire to parent or be involve in caring relationships with children can still be said to have weighty interests, such as their interest in the child becoming a just citizen. I then sketch the implications of theseadditional interests for certain stylized cases.
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