I have been thinking this week about common queries and misconceptions I come across with clients. On the whole most parents are pretty clear about what rights and responsibilities they have in relation to their children, but for some, mostly parents who are not married or have never been married to each other the situation can be a little confusing.
What is parental responsibility?It is ‘all the rights, duties, powers and responsibility’ a parent has in relation to their child or their child’s property.It includes such things as the right to choose where your child goes to school, their religion and consenting to medical treatment.
So who has automatic parental responsibility?A mother automatically has parental responsibility for a child from birth.A father will only automatically have parental responsibility if he was married to the mother of the child or is named on the birth certificate (after December 2003).Once a father gains parental responsibility it is not lost, even on separation.
I am the child’s father but don’t have parental responsibility – Can I get it? There are three ways you can get parental responsibility for your child if you don’t already have it:
1.By jointly registering the birth of your child with the mother.
2.By entering into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother.
3.Obtaining a parental responsibility order from the court.
I don’t have parental responsibility – Do I need it? If you are actively involved in your child’s life, you should seriously consider the need to have parental responsibility in the event you have to make an urgent decision or consent to medical treatment and the mother is not available, particularly if you care for or have your child to stay with you overnight.Even if you do not live with your child, if you have parental responsibility you have the right to be consulted in relation to important decisions such as taking your child abroad (whether it be for a holiday or to live) or changing your child’s name.
People other than a father can also obtain parental responsibility in certain circumstances. A family law solicitor will be able to advise you about this.
If you are an unmarried father and need specialist legal advice about whether you have parental responsibility or how to obtain it if your don’t, please contact me, Sara Barnes on 01245 809556 or firstname.lastname@example.org