Unmarried parents and the subject of Parental Responsibility

BBC News, today reports on new statistics which suggest that the majority of babies born in 2016 will be born out of marriage.

It is reported that the proportion of Children born out of wedlock in 2012 rose for the 40th consecutive year to 47.5% and that by 2016 it is expected to rise to more than 50%. In contrast, figures from the Office for National Statistics, suggest that in 1938, just 4% of babies had unmarried parents.

Many of the unmarried fathers I speak to, believe that they automatically have the same rights as the child’s mother in terms of making appropriate decisions in relation to the upbringing of the child, known as Parental Responsibility. Whilst Parental Responsibility is a right conferred upon married parents, it is not automatically the case for unmarried couples who have children together. Parental Responsibility is defined in law as ‘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’. Unless the parents of the child are married, or the father is named on the birth certificate and the child was born after 1st December 2003, they do not have Parental Responsibility. Obtaining Parental Responsibility for a child puts the father on an equal basis with the mother in terms of making decisions in relation to the child’s upbringing.

It is sadly often the case that a Break-Up between parents often becomes so acrimonious that the children find themselves caught in the middle and often used as pawns. Therefore if a father wishes to have a say in their child’s upbringing it is always a good idea to obtain Parental Responsibility. On a practical level it will, among other things, allow the father to contact their child’s GP to obtain or discuss medical treatment for their child, to play an active role in their child’s education, giving them access to school reports and parents’ evenings.

For anyone finding themselves in this position and unsure of their rights and responsibilities, please come and talk to a member of our team. We can provide specialist advice as to exactly what rights parents have with regard to their children as well, of course, as other issues which inevitably arise.

By Family Law Solicitor Helen Maguire

For more information on our Family Law services, please email us at enquiries@slatergordon.co.uk or call us on 0800 916 9055.

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