11 January, 2007
If your relationship with your partner breaks down your first consideration will be your children, but do you know where you will stand legally? Which of you will have responsibility for those children?
Parental Responsibility gives equal status to both parents. The Children Act 1989 defines Parental Responsibility as a parent's rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority in relation to their child. In everyday terms, Parental Responsibility allows you to make decisions concerning your child's upbringing in matters including education and health
So who has Parental Responsibility? If the parents are or were married, both do. If not (eg. cohabitees) only the mother automatically has Parental Responsibility. However if the father is named on the child's birth certificate and the birth was registered after 1st December 2003, he will also automatically have Parental Responsibility.
If your child's birth was registered before this date, or if the father is not named on the certificate, then the father will need to apply to the Court for an order. Alternatively both parents can sign a formal written Parental Responsibility Agreement. This Agreement is then registered by the Court. You should take legal advice if you are considering either step, but the written agreement is quite straightforward.
Following a recent change in the law, step-parents can also enter into a formal written agreement to acquire Parental Responsibility. The Agreement will need to be signed by you and any parent who already has Parental Responsibility.
Any couples with children who are either splitting up or are already separated need to consider where they stand and it is usually important that each has Parental Responsibility. Take advice. With Parental Responsibility sorted you will be entitled to cheer on your child at school sports days!
Forbes family law team is made up of specialist family / divorce solicitors who offer advice on all areas of family law, including divorce, division of assets following marriage breakdown, cohabitee issues, ancillary relief, civil partnerships, children matters and change of name deeds. For further information on family / divorce issues please contact any member of our family law team.