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The New Royal Baby and Parental Responsibility

On Monday we had the happy news that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had a new baby boy. Now the question on everyone’s lips is: what will the Royal mummy and daddy call their new bundle of joy? I doubt there will be too much argument about it, both Kate and Will share parental responsibility (‘PR’) for their children because they are married to each other and they therefore have an equal say in important decisions about their baby, including what to name him.

But there are fathers and carers of children who may not have PR and as such have no legal status to make important decisions about the children in their care. Such decisions may include the child’s name, decisions about medical treatment and where they go to school. If you’re a dad and not married to your child’s mother or registered as the father on the birth certificate then you do not have PR. It is important that you acquire this even if your child does not live with you. If you have PR you have the right to information about your child from their school or GP, for example. PR can be obtained by entering into a PR agreement with the mother or becoming registered as the father on the birth certificate. If the mum does not agree to either of these then you need to make a court application for PR.

Many children are cared for by their grandparents. Some grandparents assume if their grandchildren live with them that they have the legal status to make decisions about their grandchildren when they do not actually hold PR. This could become a problem, particularly if there is another parent with PR on the scene that has different ideas about what’s best for the child. The grandparents may have acquired PR by being appointed as their grandchild’s guardian in the mother or father’s will if they have died, but this does depend on the circumstances. Grandparents and other family carers may acquire PR by applying to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order or a Special Guardianship Order. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of court application and so its best to get legal advice on the Order most suitable to your situation. So even if you happen to be the Queen, I’m afraid that you won’t get final say on your new grandchild’s name (although I’m sure she’ll have some strong opinions about it!).

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