Parental responsibility and rights.

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 In this complex and emotive area of law, you will not only need good legal advice but also to feel a good connection with your lawyer. If you need a solicitor and are anywhere in or around London, we are an ideal choice. 

If an individual pays child maintenance, this does not necessarily mean that they have parental responsibility rights ?

All parents have a duty to maintain their child, but for example, the unmarried father of a child who is not named on the birth certificate (post 2003), will not have automatically acquired parental responsibility.

The purpose of the rules set down in the Children Act is to ensure that the child’s welfare is safeguarded and is considered to be paramount by the Courts.

Section 3 of the Children Act 1989 terms parental responsibility as :-
‘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 ‘

 What rights are associated with Parental Responsibility? 

Parents often enquire as to what rights they actually have. Examples of such rights are set out as follows :-

  • housing the child
  • determining who has contact with the child
  • protecting/ disciplining the child
  • determining the faith of the child
  • making decisions as to the schooling of the child
  • agreeing to changes in the child’s first or family name
  • agreeing to or limiting the amount of time a child can be removed from the UK.

NOTE: Where both parents have parental responsibility, they are entitled to take the child out of the UK for up to one month without the consent of the other parent.

 Do you automatically get parental responsibility? 

  • If you are a mother: automatically acquired.
  • If you are a father: automatically acquired if you are married to mother at the time of the child’s birth, or if you are named on the child’s birth certificate.

NOTE: In England and Wales fathers will only automatically acquire PR rights where the birth is registered by both parties post 1st December 2003, if the parents are unmarried at the time of the birth.

 How to acquire parental responsibility 

  • Father: ensure you jointly register the birth or ensure that you are named on the birth certificate.
  • Obtain a Parental Responsibility Order via the Court.
  • Obtain a Parental Responsibility Agreement by consent with the mother.
  • By obtaining a Section 8 residence order.
  • By marrying the mother or by being appointed guardian by the mother or the court, taking effect upon the mother’s death.

NOTE: the non resident parent during a divorce will not lose parental responsibility upon divorce and if the parents are not married, once all factors are considered, it is not always the case that parental responsibility will pass to the father upon the death of the mother.

Unless specifically dismissed, parental responsibility will remain until the child attains the age of 18, although the importance and weight of the same will lessen with the age and maturity of the child and as the child reaches an age where they can form their own views and can put forward their wishes and feelings.

 The Court route 

A father can make an application to the court to obtain parental responsibility. The court takes a number of factors in to account and will reflect on the relationship between the father and child, namely:

  • The degree of commitment shown
  • The degree of attachment
  • The father’s reasons for making such an application

The Court will then base its decision on what it deems to be in the child’s best interest and the Court will consider on whether the child will be better served by them making an order, rather than them making no order at all. If the Court decides that it would not be in the child’s best interests to make an order, it will not do so. This is known as the ‘no order’ presumption.

A father who does not enjoy parental responsibility can apply for a contact, to set out a timetable for contact, if this cannot be agreed by consent. This is usually done at the same time as applying for a parental responsibility order and attaches a power of enforcement should the order be breached.

At Darlingtons, we advise clients daily on issued associated with parental responsibility, maintenance, child custody and family law finance.

 We hope the following information and advice is useful for you, please do get in touch for a free discussion as to your situation and how we can help.