Family Law-Parental Responsibility–Fathers, do you know your rights?

Parental Responsibility – Fathers, do you know your rights?

Many parents may not even be aware of what parental responsibility is – legally it is defined as all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities, and authority, which by law a parent of a child has. However, practically speaking, in a nutshell it enables a parent to make decisions in relation to their child, which includes where they live, where they go to school  or whether they should be given certain medical treatment.  You may think that this is a God given right as a parent, however, strangely you could be mistaken – well, fathers could be mistaken.  Mothers do automatically have parental responsibility however, if you are an unmarried father, you may find yourself in a very different situation.

Unless you were married to your child’s mother at the time of the birth, (or subsequently after) or you are named on your child’s birth certificate, you do not automatically have parental responsibility for your child. Here at Pinder Reaux, we are seeing an increasing number of unmarried fathers finding themselves in this unfavourable position, unaware of their lack of legal rights for their child - the vast majority of those affected are the increasing population of cohabitees. Fathers can very easily find themselves in a situation whereby they never married the child’s mother and for whatever reason have no intention of getting married – in some cases the mother does not wish for the father to be registered on the birth certificate, therefore if the relationship turns sour, fathers can find themselves in extremely difficult situations. 

It is vital that as a father, you are aware of your rights or lack of rights as the case may be! If you are not named on the birth certificate and have no intention of marrying the mother of your child, you can either come to an agreement with the mother whereby you enter into a parental responsibility agreement which is subsequently lodged with the court or, if the mother is refusing to enter into any such agreement, a parental responsibility order can be granted by the court. Alternatively you can obtain parental responsibility by issuing proceedings for a child arrangements order which can determine contact arrangements and residency if this is also an issue.

If you think that you may fall into one of the above categories get in touch with one of our family solicitors today on 0208 252 7373 to discuss your matter in detail and consider your options in confidence.

Simone Barton

Trainee Solicitor

Pinder Reaux & Associates