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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Ed’s move for parental responsibility

I did a double take when I first read the story in the paper about Ed Miliband making his second son “official”. Was first born, Daniel, borrowed then, or in some way not real? What did new arrival Samuel have that his older brother didn’t?

When I got down to the details it was simply the press’s usual caring way of explaining a specific situation arising from family law, akin to the mythical “quickie” divorce that enrages me so much whenever I see it.

The crux of the story is this. The new Labour leader and his partner, Justine, are not married. That means that Ed is not automatically registered as the father of any children, thus gaining parental responsibility, when the birth is registered - unless he goes with the mum. When 17-month-old Daniel arrived in the world, Justine went to register the birth on her own. So, looking at this as a journalist and doing the sums, that means that Daniel is apparently not Ed’s “official” son.

The couple has said this was simply an oversight (never a good word for a politician to use in my opinion!) and so made sure that he was at the town hall this time around to be duly recorded as the dad of Samuel. They also took the opportunity to correct their earlier mistake and add Ed to Daniel’s birth registration documents.

I am glad that this often overlooked subject is in the headlines, though wish it had been reported a little more clearly so that thousands more people in this country understand whether they do or don’t have responsibility for their child.

A mother automatically has parental responsibility, 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 1 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.

Fathers of children whose birth is registered before 1 December 2003 who haven’t acquired parental responsibility by virtue of marriage, or unmarried fathers of children whose birth is registered after 1 December 2003 and are not named as father on the child’s birth certificate, do not automatically have parental responsibility. This means that they are not recognised in law as having all the responsibilities relating to a child, such as being able to give permission for medical treatment or being entitled to updates on a child’s progress at school.

Parental responsibility can be gained by:

  • marrying the mother of your child
  • entering into a voluntary Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother 
  • obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order from the court.

So now there is no excuse for not making it “official”.

Andrew Woolley
Divorce solicitor


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