Do you have parental responsibility or not?
Many people assume that because they look after children either from a second marriage / partnership or residence order they automatically have the right to have a say in every aspect of the child’s live and upbringing. This is, in the eyes of the law, a misconception.
Parental responsibility means all the duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law, parents have in relation to children. This includes not only day to day decisions (such as what the child should eat, what the child should wear and their everyday activities) but also long term decisions (such as education, health and religion).
All mothers have automatic parental responsibility and so do fathers who are married to the child’s mother at the time of its birth or whose name is on the child’s birth certificate. This right does not disappear if the parent’s divorce in the future.
Unfortunately here in the Marlborough Law Family department we often have to remind parties in a divorce who have children that even though the child or children now live most of the time with one parent for ease of attending school or staying in the family home both parents retain parental responsibility and as such have an equal say in such matters as medical treatment and school choices.
Unmarried fathers whose name is not on the child’s birth certificate can enter into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the child’s mother if she agrees of make an Application to court if she does not.
Step-parents do not automatically gain parental responsibility. This can cause a great deal of stress and tension in a household as sometimes a step-parent makes a decision which the non-resident parent does not agree with and this can lead to arguments and friction. Decisions are made in the heat of the moment often when something is going wrong such as urgent medical treatment or GCSE subject decisions at parents evening. Step-parents can apply for a Parental Responsibility Order through the courts as well as non-married parents, relatives of deceased parents and civil partners.
The application can be made either with or without the consent of the parent who has parental responsibility if they are known or their whereabouts known. The person making the application must be related to the child. These applications often involve a Hearing in the Magistrates Court in front of 3 magistrates and they will ask questions of both parties. At Marlborough Law we prepare a statement on behalf of our Clients who can be either the Applicant for the Order or the Respondent who does not agree to the application.
If you are in any doubt whether you have Parental Responsibility for your child or a child living with you and would like a chat about it please contact me for your free 30 mins consultation on 01672 552552.