On many occasions we hear our clients say that they did not know about parental rights and whether they have them or not, and that they only find out what ‘parental responsibility’ means when they separate.
What is parental responsibility?
Parental responsibility covers the legal rights and responsibilities a parent has over a child. It includes those everyday responsibilities involved in bringing up a child. These include being involved with their education, agreeing any medical treatment, changing their names and looking after the child’s property.
Having parental responsibility for a child does not mean that you have a right to contact them, but the other parent still needs to keep you updated about their well-being and progress.
Mothers have automatic parental responsibility for their biological children.
It is a common misconception that all fathers have parental responsibility. In fact, there are only four ways in which the father can obtain such rights:
- Being married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth
- Being named on the child’s birth certificate (if the child was born after 1 December 2003)
- Entering a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother
- Through a court order.
Same-sex partners both have parental responsibility, as long as they were civil partners or married at the time of the fertility or insemination treatment. For those who are not civil partners or married, the second parent can gain parental responsibility in two ways:
- By applying for parental responsibility if a parental agreement was made
- By becoming a civil partner or getting married to the other parent and making a parental responsibility agreement or jointly registering the birth.
Grandparents do not have parental responsibility for their grandchildren. Except in some limited occasions, they normally need the court’s permission first before they can apply for contact with their grandchildren as part of a Child Arrangements Order. If they are granted a Child Arrangements Order, they may also at the same time obtain parental responsibility for their grandchild.
It is essential to receive good legal advice as they will need to persuade the Court that the relationship between the grandchildren and grandparents is meaningful and that the on-going relationship will significantly benefit the children’s lives without having a negative impact on other family relationships.
Who can acquire parental responsibility?
Certain people connected with the child can apply for parental responsibility, such as a step-parent or second female/male parent. Otherwise, if you are an extended family member, for example, you may acquire parental responsibility by obtaining a Child Arrangement Order for the child.
How can we help?
If you are unsure of your legal standing and whether you have parental responsibility, wish to prepare and sign a parental responsibility agreement, or if you can’t agree on arrangements with the mother, please contact us to find out your legal position. Remember, our first appointment is always free.