During divorce or separation dispute cases, the lines which once seemed so clear can easily become blurred. Who is responsible for what regarding the children? Where do one person’s duties start and end once you are separated?
A Parental Responsibility Order can be a part of how to clarify these matters, in terms everyone can hopefully easily understand and discuss. But before you can understand how a Parental Responsibility Order might apply to you, you do need to be sure of the exact definition of Parental Responsibility.
How is Parental Responsibility (PR) defined?
The definition of Parental Responsibility is in the Children Act 1989 legislation:
“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.”
So what does this mean exactly and how do the family courts interpret it in practice? Essentially, PR is simply a recognition of a parent taking responsibility for a child on a day to day basis, or for the periods they are spending time with the child and also being consulted on important medical, educational and other such aspects of a child’s life even if not directly taking care of a child.
Parental Responsibility provides for the legal right to make decisions about a child. This responsibility relates to a wide range of areas, such as their well-being, education, religion and medical needs. When a major decision must be made, all parties with PR should be consulted if possible.
Please remember though, family law courts do not generally like parents talking about their rights regarding children, the focus is usually on the responsibilities, not a fathers rights or a mothers rights.
Who has PR?
The mother of the child automatically has PR, as does the married father. Adoptive parents and special guardians may also have PR in certain circumstances.
If the parents of a child are not married, things work slightly differently. The unmarried father will have automatic PR if he is on the child’s birth certificate (and if the child was born after 1st December 2003). An unmarried father will also have PR if it is stated in a Parental Responsibility Order or a Parental Responsibility Agreement.
However, Parental Responsibility doesn’t affect the duty the parents have to financially support the child. This remains the job of all parents, regardless of whether they have Parental Responsibility or not.
I’m an unmarried father. How can I qualify for PR?
If you don’t automatically qualify for PR, this can be obtained by order of the court or by special agreement (It is worth noting here that PR does not automatically equate to spending time with a child or parenting time).
A biological father who does not already have parental responsibility can get it by:
- Making a parental responsibility agreement with the mother (this should be a formal written document, rather than an informal verbal agreement)
- Re-registering the birth of the child (the mother must agree, and this can only be done if the father’s name is not already on the certificate. Otherwise there has to be a court order or DNA test that proves the man named on the certificate is not the natural father)
- Applying to the court for a parental responsibility order
- Marrying the mother
It is important usually for children that their father is recorded on their birth certificate and their father has Parental Responsibility. Because children should have a formal record of their identity and their parents. Children do have a right to be registered and to have their identity protected and preserved under Article 7 and Article 8 of the UN Convention On The Rights Of The Child.
Fathers who do not have Parental Responsibility also do not have to be consulted on schools; change of name; religion; if a child moves abroad; medical treatment or adoption plus they cannot make an application to court without permission Etc. It is generally important for children that PR is acquired by their fathers as it also helps to safeguard and maintain their relationship.
Parental Responsibility Agreement Forms (C(PRA1) can be obtained online from GOV.UK which also has details of where to take the completed form and what else you need to do.
Parental Responsibility Orders are applied for from the court on a C1 Form. It is unusual for courts not to grant a father PR although they may take their time about doing so.
To find out more about contact and Child Arrangements Orders, read our [blogpost]
If you have more questions about Parental Responsibility, Parental Responsibility Agreements, Parental Responsibility Orders, don’t hesitate to contact Family Law Decisions by calling us or use our simple Contact Us form.