Parental responsibility is a legal term which encompasses all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which, by law, a parent of a child has in relation to the child and their property.
That means, 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.
Who has Parental Responsibility?
- The mother of the child automatically has parental responsibility
- The father of the child if he is married to the mother
- As from 1st December 2003, unmarried fathers if they are named on the Birth Certificate
Fathers of children born before 1st December 2003 who have not acquired parental responsibility by marrying the mother, or unmarried fathers of children who were born after 1st December 2003 and are not named as the father on the child's Birth Certificate, do not automatically have parental responsiblity. They must apply for it, in the same way as step-parents must or enter into a Parental Responsibility Agreementwith the mother.
Do I need Parental Responsibility?
On a practical level it will, among other things allow you to:
- Contact your child's GP to obtain or discuss medical treatment for your child
- Play an active role in your child's education, giving you access to school reports and parents' evenings
- Have a say in your child's religious upbringing
How to obtain parental responsibility
Many people are shocked and hurt to find that, if parents are unmarried, it is only the mother who has automatic rights with regard to their children.
- marrying the mother of your child
- entering into a voluntary Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother (this is a straightforward paperwork exercise)
- obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order from the court.
Will the court grant a 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 earlier if a court order is made.
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