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Are you a responsible parent?

What is parental responsibility?

Under the Children Act 1989, the term “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”

This means that each parent who has parental responsibility is entitled to make day to day decisions about the child independently of anyone else with parental responsibility, except for taking the child out of the UK.  However, the people with parental responsibility should consult each other about important decisions such as immunisations, medical treatment, change of school etc

If someone does not have parental responsibility, for example, an unmarried father without his name on the child’s birth certificate, his statutory obligation as the child’s parent to maintain the child is not affected

Who has parental responsibility?

Mother – a child’s biological mother automatically has parental responsibility for her child

Married father – a married father automatically has parental responsibility for his child.  This does not end on divorce.  An unmarried father who subsequently marries the mother acquires parental responsibility on marriage

Second female parent married or in a civil partnership – a second female parent automatically has parental responsibility for her child if she is married or in a civil partnership with the mother at the time of the placing of the embryo or sperm and eggs or artificial insemination.  This does not apply if she did not consent to that procedure

Unmarried father on child’s birth certificate – after 1/12/03, a father who is unmarried at the time of the child’s birth automatically has parental responsibility if he is registered on the child’s birth certificate

How to gain parental responsibility

A second female parent or unmarried father can gain parental responsibility by:

•    Re-registering the birth to include that parent on the birth certificate
•    Entering into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother
•    Obtaining a court order
•    Subsequently marrying 
•    Being named in a child arrangements order as the parent with whom the child lives

If you have any doubt as to your position, Gail Cook and Paula Sanders have many years experience in advising on issues relating to children and are here to help

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