You may have heard ‘Parental Responsibility’ or ‘Parental Rights’ but often, when a family relationship is functioning, they are not terms that you have needed to give much thought to. However, on the breakdown of a relationship many parents start to question what their rights are in respect of the child.
Here’s a handy overview of Parental Responsibility and what it means for you.
What is Parental Responsibility?
Parental Responsibility is the role of someone to protect and maintain the child, for example by providing them with a suitable home. It is also the right for someone to make decisions for the child. These can range from small day-to-day decisions, such as discipline, to much larger decisions such as whether a child should have medical treatment, where they should go to school and what they should be named.
For separated parents, Parental Responsibility does not mean the automatic right to have contact with the child. Both parents should decide who the child lives with and how often they spend with the other child dependant on what is in the child’s best interests at the time.
Note that the financial support of a child is separate from Parental Responsibility. Parents have to ensure that their child is supported financially, whether or not they have Parental Responsibility.
Who has Parental Responsibility?
Mothers automatically have Parental Responsibility for a child from birth. Fathers will obtain it in a number of ways:
If married to the mother at the time of birth or subsequently marries her after;
If listed on the birth certificate (after 2003);
If they have entered into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother;
If they have been granted Parental Responsibility by the Court; or
If they have the benefit of a Child Arrangements Order stating the child lives with them.
Similar provisions apply for same-sex couples. Both parents will have Parental Responsibility if they are married or in a civil partnership, registered on the birth certificate or have been granted Parental Responsibility through a formal agreement or by the Court.
The number of people who have Parental Responsibility for a child is not limited to just two. Others may gain Parental Responsibility such as step-parents, grandparents or the Local Authority. To obtain Parental Responsibility, consent must be given by all others who already have it or by the Court.
How can I exercise my Parental Responsibility?
You do not always need consent of the other parent to exercise your Parental Responsibility. You are able to make routine decisions for the child without agreement. However, major decisions for the child should be agreed by all those with Parental Responsibility. For example, if one parent wants to transfer the child to another school or wishes to move abroad with the child.
For separated parents, it is easy to find that you are not kept as informed as you would like to be about the child’s education and health. By proving your Parental Responsibility to the child’s school and doctors, they would be able to discuss the child with you and keep you updated, for example by sending you school reports.
It is often the case that those with Parental Responsibility can work together to make decisions which are in the child’s best interest. If so, there is no need for solicitors or the Court to become involved. However, if there is a dispute between parents, it may be necessary to seek help. Although it would be hoped that an agreement could be reached through negotiation, the final option would be to seek a decision from the Court as to what is in the child’s best interests in the circumstances.
Our Family Team at Beviss & Beckingsale can help you comprehend your rights, obtain Parental Responsibility and resolve disputes in relation to a child. We offer a fixed fee initial appointment to ensure that we have adequate time to understand your position and give you clear advice. If you would like to know more, please contact 01404 548050 firstname.lastname@example.org or zoe.gaitskell@bevissandbeckingsale