Do you have Parental Rights and Responsibilities for your children ?
Unlike mothers, fathers do not always have automatic parental responsibility for their children. Nearly half of all children are now born out of wedlock, so it is not surprising that many parents may be uncertain about who has legal parental responsibility for their children.
Who has Parental Responsibility?
Parental responsibility is automatically given to the natural mother of her children from birth. However, the conditions for fathers gaining parental responsibility are far from clear.
Within England and Wales, if the parents of a child are married to each other at the time of the birth, or if they have jointly adopted a child, then they both have responsibility.
Parents do not lose parental responsibility if they divorce, and this applies to both parties.
The rules change for the case of unmarried parents. According to current law, a mother always has parental responsibility for her child, whereas a father only has this automatic right if he is married to the mother when the child is born, or has acquired legal responsibility for his child.
Legal responsibility can be obtained:
- By jointly registering the birth of the child with the mother from 1st December 2003.
- By a parental responsibility agreement with the mother.
- By a parental responsibility order, made by a court.
- By marrying the mother of the child.
If the parents are not married, parental responsibility does not automatically pass to the natural father if the mother dies, unless he already has parental responsibility.
If the matter cannot be resolved by mutual agreement, it may be necessary to go down the route of applying to the courts.
Applying to the Courts for Parental Responsibility.
A father can approach the court to gain parental responsibility. In considering an application from a father the court will take the following into account:
- The amount of commitment shown by the father to his child.
- The amount of attachment between father and child.
- The reasons for applying for the order.
The court will then make a ruling to accept or decline the application, based on what it believes is in the child’s best interests.
A married step parent or civil partner may also be able to obtain parental responsibility in this way.
Parental responsibility is lost by those putting up a child for adoption. When the child has been formally adopted, the adoptive parents take on the parental responsibility.
If a child is the subject of a Care Order, the Local Authority has parental responsibility which is shared with the parents. If the child is in care voluntarily, parental responsibility remains with the parents.
Andrew Bates DipFA
Berkeley Trusts and Wills
Office: 01702-470054 Mobile: 07930-375833