When parents separate there can be disagreements regarding the children which can lead to a great deal of stress and conflict. This, unfortunately, can impact on the children. Where agreements cannot be reached regarding a child, it is important to establish who has parental responsibility in relation to that child.
Under the Children Act 1989 “parental responsibility” means all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which, by law, a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property. In practical terms this would include, amongst other things, providing a home for the children, having contact with them, protecting and financially maintaining them. It also includes making major decisions such as a child’s education, and medical treatment as well as religious upbringing and discipline.
Where the parents are married then both have parental responsibility for their children.
Where parents are not married, the mother automatically has parental responsibility, but the father does not unless, for children born after 1st December 2003, he attended with the mother to register the birth and is named on the birth certificate. If unmarried parents subsequently marry, the father acquires parental responsibility by way of marriage.
A biological father who is not registered on the child’s birth certificate and is not married to the mother can obtain parental responsibility in a number of ways:
• Entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother – this is a standard form which both parents complete and sign at the Court.
• Apply to the Court for a Parental Responsibility Order
Step-parents can obtain parental responsibility in specific circumstances, and Orders under the Children Act 1989 can be made to other persons granting parental responsibility in specific circumstances.
It is important to consider parental responsibility as without it, a father can be restricted in important decisions in his child’s life, and cannot remove the child from the UK without formal permission of the mother, or anyone else with an Order granting parental responsibility.
Contact Melanie Young at Waldrons Solicitors on 01384 811811 for further advice.