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Unlike  the mother of a child, where a couple are not married fathers do not automatically acquire parental responsibility.  With more and more children being born outside marriage, there is greater uncertainty amongst parents about the legal responsibility they may have for their children.

What do we mean by ‘parental responsibility’?

Parental Responsibility is defined 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”.  It concerns a different array of matters such as:-

  • General care – such as where the child lives, how much time they spend with    other family members, other day to day matters and routine
  • Education
  • Medical treatment
  • Religious upbringing
  • Protection and maintenance
  • Consent to marriage – if a child seeks to marry between 16 and 18 years
  • Agreement to adoption
  • Appointment of a guardian

The mother of a child automatically has parental responsibility for her child.  A father will automatically acquire parental responsibility if at the time of birth, or any time after that, the mother and father are married.

A father who has not been married to the mother will automatically have parental responsibility if the child was born after 1st December 2003 and both parents register the birth with the father’s name on the birth certificate.  If the child was born prior to 1st December 2003, then an unmarried father will not have parental responsibility even if his name is on the birth certificate.

In these circumstances the father can obtain parental responsibility by:-

  • marrying the mother (not always appropriate)
  • entering into a formal Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother
  • asking the Court to make a Parental Responsibility Order

An application to the Court can be made under the Children Act 1989.  In deciding whether a Court should make an Order for Parental Responsibility, the Court will consider the degree of the father’s commitment to the child; the degree of attachment to his child; his reasons for applying for a Parental Responsibility Order.

A Parental Responsibility Agreement must be in writing.  Kew Law can assist you in drafting a Parental Responsibility Agreement for a set fee of £150 plus VAT.  We will draft the Agreement and provide you with full details of how to execute the Agreement.

How is Parental Responsibility Lost?

Parental Responsibility is lost in two circumstances:-

  • Where a child attains the age of 18
  • Where a Court Order terminates Parental Responsibility e.g. on adoption

Parental Responsibility cannot be surrendered or transferred but can be shared

Applying to the courts for parental responsibility

The conditions for fathers automatically gaining parental responsibility varies throughout the UK. A father can however apply to the court to gain parental responsibility.

Alternatives to Court Proceedings

Applications to the Court concerning children can be very difficult and an immense strain on the parents.  At Kew Law we will firstly always try to negotiate with the other parent to see whether  an agreement can be reached.  When both parties are aware of their legal rights this is often a realistic achievement.

Mediation is also an alternative to Court proceedings and Kew Law can make a referral to mediation and advise you during the mediation process.

If you have a problem seeing your children or you have good reasons to deny contact between your children and your ex-partner, then contact us here or call our mobile friendly number 033 33 22 1000 or 0800 987 8156 to book an initial consultation with our Family Law Solicitor.

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