Whether or not you're married to the mother of your child or you've become a father through adoption, once you've established paternity, you have certain rights and responsibilities regarding the raising of your child. One of these responsibilities, providing care for your child, includes your right to review and receive copies of your child's school and medical records. Both federal and state law apply to this right.
Continue below to learn more about a father's rights to school and medical records and other considerations that can affect these rights.
Fathers' Rights to School Records
In order to guide your child through their education, you may wish to review their school records. After all, these records can provide you with important information needed to ensure that your child receives a quality education.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that applies to educational agencies and schools that receive funding under programs administered by the Department of Education. Private and parochial schools generally aren't subject to FERPA as they usually don't receive this funding.
FERPA gives custodial and noncustodial parents certain rights respecting their child's public school education records. Unless a school is provided with evidence of a court order or State law stating the contrary, both custodial and noncustodial parents have the right to:
"Education records" means records that contain information directly related to a student and that are maintained by an educational agency or school. A school isn't generally required to provide you with access to school calendars or general notices such as parent-teacher meetings or extra-curricular activities.
Under FERPA, a school must provide a parent with an opportunity to inspect and review his child's education records within 45 days following a request. The school is required to provide you with copies of education records. If you don't live within commuting distance of the school, the school must make other reasonable arrangements.
Fathers' Rights to Medical Records
In order to direct your child's health care you may wish to review medical records. Your ability to review your child's medical records can provide you with important information needed to ensure your child receives the proper medical care.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that, among other things, protects the privacy of individually identifiable health information. HIPAA's Privacy Rule generally allows a parent, as the minor child's representative, to access his child's medical records.
There are three situations in which a parent wouldn't be the minor child's personal representative under the Privacy Rule. The exceptions are:
However, even in these three situations, you may still gain access to your minor child's medical records when State or other applicable law requires or permits such parental access. On the other hand, your access may be denied when State or other law prohibits such access. And, if State or other applicable law is silent on your right to access in these situations, the licensed care provider may exercise his or her professional judgment to the extent allowed by law to grant or deny you access to your minor child's medical information.
Lastly, a medical provider may choose not to treat a parent as a personal representative when the provider reasonably believes that the child has been or may be subjected to domestic violence, abuse or neglect, or that treating the parent as the child's personal representative could endanger the child.
When seeking access to your child's school and medical records, you should consult your state's law to determine whether there are additional requirements to those stated under the laws discussed above.
All states have laws that allow minors to give consent for some kinds of health care, including emergency, contraceptive, pregnancy-related, STD, substance abuse, and mental health care. All states also have laws that allow minors to consent for care if they're emancipated, living apart from their parents, pregnant, high school graduates, or older than a certain age. The HIPAA Privacy Rule is subject to these types of laws.
Additionally, if you are subject to a court order regarding custody, and are prohibited from directing day-to-day care of your child, you may not be considered your child's personal representative under state law and may not be allowed access to school or medical records.
More Questions About Fathers' Rights to School and Medical Records? Ask an Attorney
While federal law generally allows access to school and medical records, state law may provide different rules. If you need help understanding your rights and the rules to gaining access to your child's records, you should contact a family law attorney near you.