When a relationship involving children breaks down, most parents will immediately think about how this will affect their children; where will they live, who will be the main carer and how will they maintain contact with both parents. How this is decided depends largely on who has Parental Responsibility.
What is Parental Responsibility?
In England and Wales, Parental Responsibility means you have certain rights and responsibilities for your children. This includes the responsibility to provide basic needs for your children (such as a home), keep them safe, as well as making decisions about their upbringing.
This also means you have a right to make decisions about where you child lives and who with, which is important if your relationship breaks down. If you don’t have Parental Responsibility then you may not get a say in where they live after you break up, so if you can see them.
Who has Parental Responsibility?
Mothers automatically have Parental Responsibility. A father will have Parental Responsibility if:
- He was married to the mother at birth or after
- His name is on the birth certificate (born after 1st December 2003)
How can I get Parental Responsibility?
If the mother agrees you should have Parental Responsibility, then it is fairly straightforward. You can re-register the birth of your child and add your name to the birth certificate. Alternatively, you can get a Parental Responsibility Agreement which must be approved by a local family court.
If the mother doesn’t agree to a Parental Responsibility Agreement, you will need to make an application to the court. When reviewing the application the court will consider:
- The level of commitment shown by you to your child
- The level of attachment between you and your child
- Your reasons for applying for the order
The court will always consider the child’s best interest and will not unreasonably reject an application.
Can I lose Parental Responsibility?
If you have Parental Responsibility through marriage of the birth certificate, this cannot be taken away from you unless your child is adopted. However, if you have Parental Responsibility through a Court Order, your Parental Responsibility will end if and when the order is discharged by the court.
If you have any questions about Parental Responsibility, please contact us in London (West Drayton) on 01895 449288 or in Hertfordshire (St Albans) on 01727 840900 or by email via our contact page.