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Divorce and family law explained 

Parental responsibility - do you have it for your child?

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’. Therefore if you have Parental Responsibility you are recognised in the eyes of the law as having all the legal powers to make appropriate decisions in relation to the upbringing of your child.

What is Parental Responsibility? 

On a practical level having Parental Responsibility will, amongst other things, allow you to contact your child’s GP to obtain or discuss medical treatment for your child and to play an active role in your child’s education, giving you access to school reports, parents evenings, etc.

A mother automatically has Parental Responsibility for her child, as does a married father irrespective of whether the marriage to the mother occurred before or after the birth of the child.

As from the 1st December 2003 unmarried fathers of children whose birth is registered on or after this date, provided they are named on the birth certificate of the child, also have Parental Responsibility.

So what about the fathers of children whose birth is registered before 1st December 2003 who haven’t acquired Parental Responsibility by virtue of marriage or unmarried fathers of children who were born after 1st December 2003 and are not named as father on the child’s birth certificate? In these cases it is only the mother who is deemed to have Parental Responsibility in respect of the child.

How to obtain Parental Responsibility 

If you are a father who does not have Parental Responsibility it can be obtained in one of the following three ways:

  • by marrying the mother of the child (which is not always an option)
  • by entering into a voluntary Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother, or
  • by obtaining an order of the court (Parental Responsibility order)

Before the court will make an order granting Parental Responsibility, a father would need to establish that there is a degree of commitment to the child; a degree of attachment exists between the child and the father and that the application is being made purely in the interests of the child’s welfare.

Once you have Parental Responsibility it must be exercised appropriately and jointly with the mother of the child. Parental Responsibility comes to an end when the child attains the age of 18 years or by court order if earlier.

Irrespective of whether or not you have Parental Responsibility, you are at liberty to apply to the court for a Child Arrangement Order to deal with living and contact arrangements for your child.

Need further advice?

Call Woolley & Co on 0800 3213832 or book a free initial telephone appointment with one of our lawyers.

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