How to obtain parental responsibility?

There are a number of different ways you can obtain Parental Responsibility for a child and a number of different people can obtain parental responsibility.

It is necessary to consider the relationship of the parents when looking at how the non birth parent will obtain parental responsibility.

What is Parental Responsibility?

The Children Act 1989 sets out what parental responsibility means.

“all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”.

Each parent with parental responsibility has a duty to consult the other about issues such as the child’s religion, education, health and the child’s name.

These are the main issues although any decision concerning the child should be agreed with all persons who are responsibility for parenting the child.

Whether a parent has parental responsibility or not does not affect that parents obligations and liability to financial support the child.

Parents who are married or in a Civil Partnership

If you are the Mother of the child then you will automatically have parental responsibility upon the birth of your child whether you are married to the Father at the time of the birth or not.

If you are the Father of the child you too could also automatically have parental responsibility for your child but only if you are married to the Mother at the date of the child’s birth.

If the Mother is in a same sex relationship and is married or has entered a civil partnership at the time of the birth of the child her partner will be recognised as the other parent and will have parental responsibility automatically.

Parents who are not married or in a civil partnership but the other parent is named on the birth Certificate

From 1st December 2003 if Mother and Father are not married but Father is named on the birth Certificate then Father will have parental responsibility.

As a result of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 the female partner of a woman who undergoes fertility treatment is to be granted the status of parent in relation to any child conceived during the course of that treatment in a UK licensed clinic.

Both Mother and her partner must also complete a selection of mandatory forms. (See below).

What if the Mother refuses to name the other parent on the birth certificate. Then quite simply the other parent has no parental responsibility. In that case the Mother will be the only one with parental responsibility and it is she who will have the right of decision making such as:

  • Where the child lives
  • the child’s name
  • How and where a child is to be educated
  • Which, if any, religion a child follows
  • Whether or not a child has medical treatment
  • Giving consent for a child to leave the country, whether for a holiday or permanently

Other ways that parents can obtain Parental Responsibility

A Father can obtain parental responsibility by one of the following ways:

  • by entering into a parental responsibility agreement with the Mother
  • by applying to the court for an order that he should have parental responsibility
  • as a consequence of being named in a child arrangements order, either as someone with whom the child shall live from time to time or as someone to whom the court has granted parental responsibility
  • by subsequently marrying the child’s Mother
  • by being appointed as the child’s Guardian, or
  • by adopting the child.

Where a Mother and her female partner are not married or in a civil partnership, provided the female parenthood conditions are met the non birth parent has the same opportunities to obtain parental responsibility for the child as are available to an unmarried father listed above.

The ‘agreed female parenthood conditions’ are:

The female partner (P) of the woman undergoing treatment (W) has given the person responsible for the treatment a notice stating that she consents to be treated as a parent of the child born as a result of the treatment.

W has given the person responsible a notice stating that she agrees to P being treated as a parent.

Neither P nor W has withdrawn their consent

W has not subsequently consented to any other person to be treated as the father or parent.
W and P are not within prohibited degrees of relationship in relation to each other.

How to obtain Parental Responsibility Agreement

The Children Act 1989 provides for unmarried fathers to enter into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the Mother or any others who have parental responsibility where all are agreed.

This is dealt with by completing a form and taking this along to the Court with full identification and the child’s full birth certificate and having signatures of both parents witnessed by the Clerk.

The form once completed needs to be sent to The Central Family Court, First Avenue House, 42-49 High Holborn, London WC1V 6WP. There is no cost for filing this Agreement.

The original Agreement plus two copies need to be sent to the Court. The Central Family Court will keep the original and send a sealed copy to both parents which should be kept in a safe place.

How to Apply for an order from the Court for Parental Responsibility

A child’s Father, other female parent or a step parent can apply to the Court where it is not possible to reach agreement with the birth Mother.

A form will need to be completed giving the child’s name and date of birth and the details of both parents together with anyone else who may have parental responsibility.

The matter will be listed for a hearing and the court will notify you of the date. The current fee for filing this application is £215.00. You must attend the hearing.

The Court will consider the general principle which is that any order should be in the child’s best welfare interests.

In Re H (Minors)(Local Authority: Parental Rights) the Court of Appeal held that factors to be taken into account include:

  1. the degree of commitment which the parent has shown towards the child
  2. the degree of attachment which exists
  3. the reason for applying for the order

Child Arrangements Order

If an application is made to the Court for a child arrangements order under The Children Act 1989 and the Court makes an order naming the non birth parent as a person with whom the child is to live (even if only from time to time) it must at the same time make a parental responsibility order in that parents favour if that parent does not already have parental responsibility.

Where further to an application the Court makes an order setting out that the child shall spend time with the non birth parent the Court must consider whether it would be appropriate for that parent to have parental responsibility and if it decides that the parent should have this it must make an order to that effect.

Step-Parents obtaining Parental Responsibility

Where a child’s parent has parental responsibility and is married to or a civil partner of a person who is not that child’s biological parent the step-parent can obtain parental responsibility for that child by:

  • the child’s parent (or if the other parent also has parental responsibility then both parents) entering into an agreement with the step parent; or
  • a parental responsibility can be ordered by the Court on an application by the step-parent

Guardian

A parent with parental responsibility can appoint a Guardian to acquire parental responsibility for their child on their death. Anyone who does not have parental responsibility cannot make such an appointment.

The appointment cannot take effect until the parent’s death. If on death the other parent is still alive but does not have parental responsibility then the appointment will still be effective.

Re-Register the Birth Certificate

Where a child’s birth has been registered and the Father has not been identified on the register, the birth can be re-registered provided the formalities required by Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 are complied with.   Where there is a parental responsibility agreement or an order in force then either parent can apply for re-registration. There is no time limit for the re-registration to be made.

Losing Parental Responsibility

A Mother cannot lose parental responsibility except where an adoption order is made. It is possible for a Mother’s parental responsibility to be restricted under a court order such as when there are care proceedings.

Where the child’s Father is married to the Mother either at the time of the child’s birth or subsequently he is in the same position as the Mother with regard to losing that parental responsibility. The only other possibility is where there is a paternity dispute and he is found not to be the biological father.

Where the Father is not married to the Mother but has obtained parental responsibility by either being registered on the birth certificate or entering into a parental responsibility agreement or by a court order then the Father can only lose his parental responsibility by an order of the Court.

A Female Parent who is or was in a civil partnership with the Mother when the child is born or was married to the Mother is in the same position as the married Father and she can only lose that parental responsibility in the same way.

A Female Parent who was not in a civil partnership with the Mother or not married to the Mother but has obtained parental responsibility by either being registered on the birth certificate or entering into a parental responsibility agreement or by a court order is in the same position as the unmarried Father and can only lose that parental responsibility by an order of the Court.

A Step-Parent who has entered into a parental responsibility agreement or a parental responsibility order can only have his parental responsibility terminated by an order of the Court.

For more information please call one of our solicitors at Bevan Evemy on 0333 320 8600 who will be happy to discuss this or any other issues relating to children or other matters such as cohabitation divorce, or finance.

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