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To be a parent…

To be a parent…

What is parental responsibility?

Parental Responsibility is defined in s 3(1) Children Act 1989 as being “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.”

Parental responsibility is the parents’ duties towards their child.  Day to day decisions should be taken by the person with whom the child lives, without interference from other parental responsibility holders.  Important decisions in relation to the child must be made by all of those with responsibility for the child having their say in relation to that decision. If parents with parental responsibility cannot agree you can apply for a Specific Issue Order or a Prohibited Steps Order for the judge to make the decision on behalf of the child, in the child’s best interests.

The parents’ rights and responsibilities in relation to the child’s upbringing include:

  1. Deciding where a child should live (i.e. jurisdiction, so from England to either Scotland, Ireland, Europe or the rest of the world)
  2. Consenting to taking the child abroad for holidays or extended stays
  3. Choosing and providing for the child’s education e.g. where the child goes to school
  4. Agreeing to the child’s medical treatment e.g. consenting to an operation and accessing a child’s medical records
  5. Choosing the name of the child, registering the name and agreeing to any change of name
  6. Appointing a child’s guardian in the event of the death of a parent
  7. Representing the child in legal proceedings
  8. Determining the child’s religion

Who has parental responsibility?

A biological mother automatically has parental responsibility from birth.

A father has parental responsibility if he’s either:

  1. Married to the mother (kept even if they later divorce)
  2. Listed on the birth certificate

Unmarried fathers do not have parental responsibility unless they either:

  1. Jointly register the birth of the child with the mother (must be present, in person during the registration of the child’s birth)
  2. Getting a parental responsibility agreement with the mother
  3. Getting a parental responsibility order from a court
  4. Being named as the person with whom the child shall live under a Child Arrangements Order

Same-sex civil partners will both have parental responsibility if they were civil partners at the time of the treatment, e.g. donor insemination or fertility treatment.

For same-sex non-civil partners, the 2nd parent can get parental responsibility by either:

  1. Applying for parental responsibility if a parental agreement was made
  2. Becoming a civil partner of the other parent and making a parental responsibility agreement or jointly registering the birth

Step parents and grandparents do not automatically have parental responsibility.

Getting a parental responsibility agreement with the mother

The mother must agree as it affects her legal rights. An agreement is drawn up and taken to the local county court where it can be signed and witnessed.

A solicitor cannot witness your signature. A justice of the pace, a justices’ clerk, an assistant to a justices’ clerk, or a court official who is authorised by the judge to administer oaths, will witness your signature. You will need to take proof of ID and the child’s birth certificate. 2 copies of the agreement/form are taken. The original and the copies are sent to the Principal Registry of the Family Division/Central Family Court. The court will record the agreement and keep the original. The copies will be stamped and sent back to each parent at the address on the agreement.  The agreement will not take effect until it has been received and recorded at the central family court. Once a parental responsibility agreement has been made it can only end by an order of the court made on the application of any person who has parental responsibility for the child or by an order of the court made on the application of the child with permission of the court or when the child reaches the age of 18.

Getting a parental responsibility order from a court

More than 2 people can have parental responsibility for the same child. You need to be connected to the child e.g. as their father, step-parent or second same-sex parent. If the mother does not agree then you can apply to court. A court order costs £215. If you and your partner use a surrogate to have a child, you’ll need to apply for a parental order.

Declaration of parentage

If you can prove, ordinarily via a DNA/paternity test that you are the biological father then you can make an application to the court to make a declaration of parentage. This will prove the connection to the child as an unmarried father, therefore you can apply for a parental responsibility order.

Delegation of parental responsibility

It is possible to delegate the responsibility of looking after a child to a married or unmarried partner, childminder, teacher, friend or relative, but the person with Parental Responsibility is still liable and responsible to ensure that proper arrangements are made for the child.

The friendly family law team here at Coles can assist with:

  1. Help you to determine whether you have parental responsibility or are entitled to it.
  2. Apply to court for a Specific Issue Order or Prohibited Steps Order
  3. Complete and certify a document that enables you to delegate your parental responsibility
  4. Advise you in relation to a parental responsibility agreement and the requisite form
  5. Apply to court for a Declaration of Parentage
  6. Apply to court for a Parental Responsibility Order

Our Family Team are specialists in this area and can help ensure you’ve got everything in place. Give them a call on 0800 160 10 10.

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