Who has Parental Responsibility?
- Mothers automatically have Parental Responsibility and will not lose it if divorced.
- Married fathers automatically have Parental Responsibility and will not lose it if divorced.
- Unmarried fathers do not automatically have Parental Responsibility.
- Step-fathers and Step-mothers do not automatically have Parental Responsibility.
- Grandparents do not automatically have Parental Responsibility.
How can unmarried fathers obtain Parental Responsibility?
An unmarried father can obtain Parental Responsibility by:
- marrying the mother;
- having his name registered or re-registered on the birth certificate if his name is not already registered;*
- entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother;
- obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order from the court;
- having obtained a Residence Order prior to 22/4/2014;
- being named as the resident parent under a Child Arrangements Order;
- becoming the child’s guardian on the mother’s death.
* The law has changed so that unmarried fathers who registered or re-registered their name on their child’s birth certificate after 1st December 2003 will have Parental Responsibility for their child. There are several ways that a person who is not the child’s parent may obtain Parental Responsibility:
- by being appointed as a guardian to care for the child if those with Parental Responsibility for the child have died;
- by obtaining a Child Arrangements Order from the court which requires that the child lives with that person;
- by becoming the child’s special guardian; or,
- by adopting the child.
What is Parental Responsibility?
If you have Parental Responsibility for a child, your role will be to ensure that they are housed and well fed, that they are also safe and secure in the home and away from it. You will also be responsible for:
- Naming the child (and agreeing to any change of name);
- Disciplining the child;
- Choosing and providing for the child’s education;
- Agreeing to any medical treatment; and,
- Looking after the child’s property.
If you have Parental Responsibility for a child who does not live with you, this does not necessarily give you the right to contact them. However, the other parent must still keep you updated on the child’s wellbeing, unless there is a legal reason why they do not have to do so. Having the right of legal Parental Responsibility, means that any other parents must ask your consent before they are able to make certain decisions. These decisions can include:
- Where the child goes to school;
- The appointing of a guardian in the event of the death of a parent;
- Accessing the child’s medical records;
- Consenting to someone taking the child abroad (for holidays or extended stays);
- Representing the child in any legal proceedings; and,
- Determining which religion/s the child should be brought up in.
What are Parental Responsibility Agreements?
A Parental Responsibility Agreement is made between the mother and the unmarried father to allow him to have Parental Responsibility. This type of Agreement is suitable when the father is already on the birth certificate and cannot re-register. A Parental Responsibility Agreement can also be entered into by a step-parent who is married to a person with Parental Responsibility or by a second female partner. If the Mother does not agree to a Parental Responsibility Agreement then you will need to make an application to the court for a Parental Responsibility Order.
What is a Parental Responsibility Order?
A Parental Responsibility Order is an order under the Children Act 1989, which unmarried fathers can apply for when the mother refuses to allow the father to be registered or re-registered on the birth certificate, or refuses to sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement with him. The process involves the father making an application to court for the court to decide whether or not they should allow the unmarried father to have Parental Responsibility.
Note that mediation must first be attempted with the mother before an application can be made to court. If the court decides that the father should have Parental Responsibility, the order will give the father equal Parental Responsibility with the mother. Whatever your query regarding Parental Responsibility, the Family Law Team at Ashmans Solicitors are here to take your call. We specialise in all aspects of Family Law, and children are our top priority. Gain peace of mind by letting us help you.
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