When does a father have parental responsibility?

Posted by Laura Bennett on

The phrase 'parental responsibility' encompasses the rights, duties, powers, responsibility and authorities which by law a parent has in relation to their child.
A father who is married to his child's mother automatically has parental responsibility for his child, as does an unmarried father who is named on the birth certificate.

However, where an unmarried father is not named on the birth certificate, there are a number of options that he can pursue in order to acquire parental responsibility for his child.

The first and most straightforward option is, to sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the child's mother, which records the child's parentage and that the child's father shall have parental responsibility going forward.

Alternatively, the child's birth can be re-registered. There is no charge for re-registering the birth, although it is necessary to pay for an amended copy of the birth certificate. If both parents are able to attend their local Register Office then this is a relatively straightforward procedure. It becomes more complicated if the mother is not willing to re-register the birth.

However, if a mother will not agree to re-register the birth or sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement, a father has little option but to apply to the Family Court for a Parental Responsibility Order.

Prior to making such an application, a father is required to invite the mother to attend mediation with a view to resolving the issue outside of the Court process. If the mediator believes that the issue is capable of resolution outside of the court process, they will encourage both parties to reach an agreement and therefore it may be possible to convince a formerly reluctant mother to sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement. However, if mediation breaks down or is ultimately unsuccessful, the mediator will sign the necessary document to allow the father to make a court application for a Parental Responsibility Order.

The best interests of a child will always be the court's paramount consideration when an application is made for any Order, relating to a child. It is assumed, unless the contrary is shown, that the involvement of a parent in the life of the child will further the child's welfare

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Laura is a Senior Solicitor in the Family team based in Oxford.

Laura Bennett
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