Noncustodial fathers have rights to kids' medical, school records

All too often unmarried fathers get a bad rap, marginalized by terms such as "baby daddy" and painted in media accounts as shirking their parental roles. But there are plenty of dads out there that have invested much into the lives of their children.

The problem is that many of these marginalized fathers feel like they are playing second string in their children's lives. They may not even realize that they have certain rights, such as the right to see and obtain copies of their children's medical and school records.

However, their rights are protected at both the state and federal level. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act governs schools and educational agencies that receive funds from programs that are administered by the federal Department of Education. Because parochial and private schools normally aren't funded this way, they may not be subject to FERPA.

Under FERPA, both noncustodial and custodial parents have specific rights regarding their children's public school educational records. Barring any laws or court orders negating these rights, both mothers and fathers, whether they have custody or not, are permitted to:

-- Access their children's educational records

-- Pursue having the records amended or updated

-- File complaints with the Department of Education

-- Give consent to disclose personally identifiable information in the records

The term "educational records" refer to those records containing information that is directly related to students, and maintained by a school or educational agency. Schools usually aren't required to provide noncustodial parents with access to notices for meetings between teachers and parents, academic calendars or extra-curricular activities.

Under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, parents are considered to be their minor children's representatives, and may access their children's medical records. While there are exceptions, state or other laws may grant permission. The health care provider also has discretion to grant access to parents.

If you feel that you are being denied your parental rights to your child's records, you may wish to pursue the matter through the family court system.

Source: Findlaw, "Father's Rights to School and Medical Records," accessed Nov. 18, 2015

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