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parental responsibility family law

Parental Responsibility for Fathers and Re-registration of a Child’s Birth

What is Parental Responsibility?

S3(1) Children Act 1989 defines Parental Responsibility 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”.

In practical terms, Parental Responsibility means the power to make important decisions in relation to the child, such as (but not limited to):

  • Consenting to medical treatment;
  • Choosing what school they will attend;
  • Choosing, registering or changing the child’s name;
  • Consenting to taking the child abroad on holiday;
  • Determining the religion that the child should be brought up with.

A child’s Mother automatically has Parental Responsibility for a child upon their birth. A child’s Father who is married to or in a Civil Partnership with the Mother also automatically has Parental Responsibility. Further, from 1 December 2003, a Father who is not married to the Mother acquires Parental Responsibility of the child if he is named on the child’s birth certificate.

It is not uncommon for un-married Father’s not to be named on a child’s birth certificate, especially in situations whereby paternity of the child was initially unclear or where the parent’s relationship had broken down at the time of the child’s birth and the Mother registered the birth without the Father’s involvement.

We are often asked by Fathers, what can be done to enable them to acquire parental responsibility of the child and how they can arrange for their name to be added to the child’s birth certificate.

The options as to obtaining Parental Responsibility and re-registration of a child’s birth to enable the Father to be named on the child’s birth certificate are as follows:

Re-registration of the birth by agreement

If both parents agree, the child’s birth can be re-registered to document the Father on the birth certificate. This has the advantage to the Father of automatically obtaining Parental Responsibility.

This is of course the most straight forward approach however, the clear difficulty in this situation is that a Mother who was unwilling to originally register the Father on the child’s birth certificate is often unwilling to voluntarily agree to re-registering the birth at a later date.

Amendment of the birth certificate by the Father by virtue of a Parental Responsibility Order

A Father can apply to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order or a Parental Responsibility Order.

When the Court makes a Child Arrangements Order that the child is to live with the Father it must also grant a Parental Responsibility Order.

When the Court makes a Child Arrangements Order that a child is to spend time with the Father it must consider whether it is appropriate to make a Parental Responsibility Order.
It is also possible for the Court to make a stand-alone Parental Responsibility Order.

Once the Father has a Parental Responsibility Order he can apply for the child’s birth to be re-registered under s10A(1)(e) of the Births, Deaths and Registrations Act 1953, for which the Mother’s consent is not required.

S10A of the Births, Deaths and Registration Act 1953 deals with re-registration of a child’s birth when parents are neither married nor civil partners. This section states that where a child’s birth has been registered but no person has been registered as the father of the child, the Registrar shall re-register the birth so as to show a person as the father.

Subsection 1(e) of the Act states that re-registration can take place upon the request of the Mother or that person (the Father with the Parental Responsibility Order), on production of:

  1. A certified copy of an order under section 4 of the Children Act giving that person (the Father) Parental Responsibility (the Parental Responsibility Order); and
  2. A declaration in the prescribed form, by the person making the request (the Father), stating that the Order (the Parental Responsibility Order) has not been brought to an end by an order of a Court.

This situation therefore enables a Father, who has a Parental Responsibility Order to re-register the child’s birth to record himself as their Father, even in a situation whereby the Mother will not consent to the re-registration.

Applicant for a Declaration of Parentage

When the Court considers whether to make a Parental Responsibility Order, it will consider the Father’s degree of attachment to the child, the degree of commitment and their motivation for applying for the Order. It is therefore certainly not guaranteed that the Father will be successful in obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order upon the making of his application.

In circumstances where it is unclear whether the Court would be willing to make a Parental Responsibility Order, it is also advisable for the Father to seek a Declaration of Parentage.
Upon an application for a Declaration of Parentage, the Court will simply consider whether paternity of the child has been established and if it has, the declaration will be made.

This is clearly a far more straight forward test for the Court to apply than the considerations required upon an application for Parental Responsibility. If parentage is not accepted by both parents, the Court will require a DNA test to prove the position.

A Declaration of Parentage does not provide the Father with Parental Responsibility, it more simply confirms that the Father is the father of the child and provides a mechanism for the child’s birth to be re-registered with the Father’s details. Upon the making of a Declaration of Parentage. The Court will notify the General Registrar and the child’s birth will be re-registered. For clarification, upon re-registration of the child’s birth in this manner, the Father still does not obtain Parental Responsibility.

Watson Thomas Solicitors have offices in Fleet, Guildford, Bracknell, Camberley, Farnborough and Woking.

Watson Thomas are a dedicated team of Family Lawyers who specialise in all aspects of family law. If you have any questions regarding the obtaining of Parental Responsibility over your children or the re-registration of your child’s birth, please do get in touch.

Our staff can work from home and access all systems so even if all are required to self-isolate this will not affect the day-to-day running of your case. We can also hold appointments via telephone and video conferencing, as needs be, to ensure that your service is not interrupted.

If you would like to discuss your current situation with an expert family lawyer, please call us on 0800 488 0218.

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