Parental Responsibility and Paternity
What is parental responsibility?
Parental Responsibility is label given to the rights and duties which a parent has in respect of a child.
- The right to have a say in the bigger and wider decisions about a child’s upbringing (rather than the managing of day to day care). This is in respect of such things as having a say in the Child’s education; having a say in the child’s religion; having a say in the child’ surname and having a say in the child’ medical treatment.
- The right to obtain full information from the child’s school. This includes school reports and school photos and details of parent’s evenings, school plays and school events. A parent with Parental Responsibility should be able to discuss their child with their child’s teacher and the Head of the school.
- The right to obtain full information about the child’s medical condition or treatment.
- If any consent if needed, then the parent with Parental responsibility can give consent to such things as medical treatment.
- A need to give consent for the change of the child’s surname (this consent can be refused).
- A parent with parental responsibility must always be a party to any court proceedings involving the child.
A person with Parental Responsibility does not have unilateral rights in relation to a child. If there are two parents with Parental Responsibility, then those two parents will need to agree the bigger decisions. If they cannot agree then either parent can apply to the court to ask that a court order is made regarding the decision about the child which is not agreed.
Who has parental responsibility?
A mother always has Parental Responsibility for her child.
A father has responsibility:-
- If he is married to the mother at the time of his child’s birth or later marries his child’s mother
- For any child born after 1 December 2003, the father has Parental Responsibility if he is named as the father on the Birth Certificate.
- By a Parental Responsibility agreement with the mother
- By a Parental Responsibility Order made by a Court
- By a Residence Order made in his favour (but his Parental Responsibility only lasts whilst the Residence Order is in place)
- By being appointed his child’s Guardian
- By adopting the child
Most fathers now have parental responsibility for their child whether they were married to the mother or not if they are named as the father on the birth Certificate.
Step parent parental responsibility agreement
It is possible for the parents of a child to enter into an agreement with a step parent which gives that step parent parental Responsibility. This is done by the parents and the step parent singing a form and lodging this at the Central Family Court.
Applying to the court for parental responsibility
A father can apply to the Court to gain Parental Responsibility. In considering an application from a father, the Court will take the following into account:
- The degree of commitment shown by the father to his child
- The degree of attachment between father and child
- The father’s reasons for applying for the order
The Court will then decide to accept or reject the application based on what it believes is in the child’s best interest.
Once an unmarried father has acquired Parental Responsibility for a child, he shall cease to have that responsibility:-
- By an order of the Court made on the application of any person with parental responsibility;
- By an order of the Court made on the application of the child, with permission of the court, if it is satisfied that the child has sufficient understanding to make the proposed application.
Parental Responsibility is not intended to restrict the day to day decisions which have to be taken nor does the Parental Responsibility dictate which parent the child should live with or what contact the child has with the other parent. The parent with day to day care will naturally have to make the smaller and less significant day to day decisions for the child in their care.
Disputes as to paternity
If there is a dispute as to who is the father of the child, then the person who believes themselves to be the father can make an application to the court for the court to make a Declaration of Parentage for a child.
In the first instance the court would usually expect the dispute to be resolved finally by DNA testing.
The person proved to be father will obtain a court declaration that he is the father and there will be a direction for the Register of Births to be amended to show that that person is the father.
Parental Responsibility should also be conferred upon the father.
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